FCC ‘PLAN’ Would Alert Cellphone Users of Natural Disasters

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The Federal Communications Commission is expected to announce a new plan to alert Americans of oncoming natural disasters in their area today… or, that should be, a new PLAN. The initiative is called the Personalized Localized Alerting Network (or PLAN for short), and will allow emergency officials to send text messages to cellphones in regions threatened by hurricanes, tornadoes and similar disasters.

PLAN will initially launch in New York today with a joint announcement from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and FEMA administrator W. Craig Fulgate, to be followed by a rollout in Washington DC. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have all signed on to the idea, with a full list of carriers to be made available on the FCC’s website.

Genachowski explains why PLAN is necessary:

The traditional alerts on radio and TV are still important, and they will continue, but more and more, mobile devices are becoming essential. You have them with you. In the event of a major disaster, government authorities can get lifesaving information to you quickly… Think about the South a couple of weeks ago. [You could alert] a particular local community that the tornado’s path has changed: ‘It’s coming to your community. Evacuate.’ Or, ‘The tornado is much stronger than previously anticipated. Take action.’ It’s very important.

Users will be able to opt out of receiving alerts (other than presidential ones) if they so wish.

More on TIME.com:

YouTube Creates Person Finder to Help Japanese Victims

Earthquake Preparedness Apps to Help You In Case of an Emergency

Google Earth Satellite Images Capture Japan Quake Damage