In an effort to alert as many people as possible when the threat of a terror attack, hazardous weather, or any other emergency is imminent in a particular area, New York City will be among the first cities, along with Washington D.C., to impose a mandatory alert system for all cell phones. The alerts will be bounced from cell towers to all cell phones in a threatened area. These messages will supersede all other phone traffic so the alerts get through first.
The system is called Personal Localized Alerting Network, or more to the point, PLAN. It is set to be implemented in New York City and Washington by the end of the year, and then the rest of the country a few months later.
According to the NY Daily News, the priority is safety:
“Making sure that [people] get useful and life-saving information, quickly and easily, right on their mobile phones, will help more people get out of harm’s way when a threat exists,” said Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate.
People will not have to sign up for it. It will be an automatic process so visitors and tourists from other countries will also get these alerts. Anyone and everyone in a targeted vicinity will get the alerts. The messages will also include Amber alerts and urgent blasts form the President. Those messages will also get priority phone traffic so you will receive that before you receive any other personal text message.
This also means, of course, that your kids’ cell phones will receive this privy information and they will be notified to missing children and terror alerts, with or without you there, and with or without your consent.
The NY Daily News reports that FEMA’s Fugate and Federal Communications Commissioner Chair Julius Genachowski plan to announce the new system at the World Trade Center site Tuesday in a press conference with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and top phone company execs.
The messages are similar to the text messages sent out to students when a high school or college is closed due to bad weather. The system works, no doubt about that. But some people say that their privacy is an issue. But does safety trump consent in this day and age of terrorism?
I’m also wondering if the messages tell you where to go to find safety. I can just imagine a ten-year-old on his way home from school that gets a terror warning to evacuate a certain place. Will he know where exactly to go? Of course as parents, we need to discuss a back-up plan when children start traveling on their own. I just hope that false warnings aren’t also part of the package and will stir up more needless fear and anxiety.
Do you think this a good way to alert people of potential threats? Or has the government stepped over the boundary lines and do you feel these messages will invade your privacy and your child’s privacy? And of so, what can be done about it?