updated 11:50 am EDT, Tue May 10, 2011
NYC first with FEMA's PLAN mobile emergency system
New York City had the distinction on Tuesday of being the first to carry FEMA's new mobile emergency system and explained how it worked. PLAN (Personal Localized Alerting Network) will reach the city half a year before everywhere else and will give those with cellphones and other mobile devices a location-based warning of imminent threats. The system would help give the city a way of warning residents of a terrorist attack or a disaster by notifying just those most likely to be affected in a given area.
Each update is 90 characters or less and will include less urgent but still time-sensitive notices sent by the President or Amber Alerts for missing children. Phone users can unusually choose to block the notices for imminent threats and Amber Alerts, but not Presidential alerts.
The platform has the technical support of US cellular carriers, including the top four. Alerts will also be device-independent but will need device updates to make sure they can see PLAN notices.
New Yorkers should see PLAN active by the end of 2011, with the rest of the US on track to get it sometime in mid-2012.