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2006-07-18

FEMA txting 2 u (updated 2006-07-22)

In the beginning, there was CONELRAD (which starred in the made-in-Portland CBS documentary A Day Called X, downloadable here and here).

It was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System, then the current Emergency Alert System, but none of those can reach you if you are not listening to local radio & TV. Watching DirectTV or listening to Sirius satellite radio? You don't hear any notice.

Also, believe it or not, EAS is *voluntary*. Yep. Local stations don't have to provide it, as you can read in the state plan. However, that may change, in the light of a presidential order last month.

FEMA is developing an SMS text alerting system, with cooperation from major cellular carriers. But, this is a opt-out system, instead of opt-in like every other system. It also likely will send private messages to emergency responders as well as generalized alert messages to the general population.

Multiple sites have allowed e-mail and SMS text message alerts for years, e.g., the three-year-old alerting system from where I grew up on the Gulf, this Amber Alert site, another free site which permits more detail as to what alerts you get, and DC's Text Alert system.

So, if you want notification, you don't have to wait for FEMA. And, given its proven utility elsewhere, I'm glad they are.

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I've also updated my page on Communicating with mobile phones in disaster areas despite system overload to note the largest nationwide paging system operator now offers SMS access to its digital display pagers.