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New York City Unveils First-in-the-Nation Public Safety System with Enabled Mobile Devices

May 10, 2011

PLAN ensures that emergency alerts will not get stalled by user congestion, which can happen with standard mobile voice and texting services. Authorized government officials can send messages, which participating wireless providers then push using their cell towers to enabled mobile devices in a targeted geographic area.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate, top executives from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon and others convened at the World Trade Center site to announce PLAN--the Personal Localized Alerting Network. PLAN is a free service that will allow customers with an enabled mobile device to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. This service will be available in New York City by the end of 2011, at least two calendar quarters before the rest of the nation.

PLAN ensures that emergency alerts will not get stalled by user congestion, which can happen with standard mobile voice and texting services. Authorized government officials can send messages, which participating wireless providers then push using their cell towers to enabled mobile devices in a targeted geographic area.

“In both the public and private sectors, I’ve always believed in the need to harness technology in news ways, including ways that its designers hadn’t anticipated. The City’s opt-in Notify NYC system is a great example of that: it alerts people to dangers and delays via email and mobile devices, and it has become a national model of emergency communication,” said New York City Michael Bloomberg.

“But given the kinds of threats made against New York City at the World Trade Center, Times Square, and other places popular with visitors and tourists, we’ll be even safer when authorities can broadcast warnings to everyone in a geographic area regardless of where they came from or bought their phone,” Mayor Bloomberg continued. “I want to congratulate FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate for this quantum leap forward in using technology to help keep people safe.” “Communications technology – and in particular mobile broadband – has the potential to revolutionize emergency response,” said FCC Chairman Genachowski. “Our communications networks need to be reliable and resilient in times of emergency. The FCC is working with carriers to ensure that they are.”

“Following the devastating tornadoes in the Southeast, we are witnessing yet again the critical role the public plays as part of our nation’s emergency management team. Making sure that they 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 Administrator Fugate. “This new technology could become a lifeline for millions of Americans and is another tool that will strengthen our nation’s resilience against all hazards.”

When PLAN is operational, customers in an area affected by an emergency who have a PLAN-capable mobile device will receive an alert of ninety characters or less. Consumers will receive three types of alerts from PLAN: (1) alerts issued by the President; (2) alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life; and (3) Amber Alerts. Participating carriers may allow subscribers to block all but Presidential alerts.

In 2006, Congress passed the Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act, requiring carriers that choose to participate to activate PLAN technology by a deadline determined by the FCC, which is April 2012. Participants that will offer PLAN at least two calendar quarters ahead of schedule in New York City are AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Ninety percent of New York subscribers who have a PLAN-capable mobile device in these cities will be able to receive PLAN alerts by the end of 2011.

For more information on PLAN (Personal Localized Alerting Network), visit the Federal Communications Commission website at www.fcc.gov or follow @FCC on Twitter.