Emergency alert system expands to mobile phones

The Coast Guard has successfully added the Transportation Security Administration to its agencywide Alerts and Warning System, providing the Homeland Security Department’s two largest agencies with a system for communicating with their personnel and with civilian partner communities.

The system is built on standards based software from AtHoc Inc. “There is no reason it would not scale to all of DHS,” said AtHoc CEO Guy Miasnik.

So, will the Coast Guard become the alert and warning system provider for the department? “That’s a good question,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ted Kim, operations systems manager at USCG headquarters in Washington. “I don’t know.”


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The department is interested in an enterprise system to replace other siloed systems in use at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others. But the Coast Guard isn’t marketing its AWS 2.0, and the choice could just as easily go to another system.

In the meantime, a national public alert system is being established to distribute emergency notices by text message to cell phones. The Commercial Mobile Alert System was established by the Federal Communications Commission in 2008. Participating commercial mobile service providers will use the system to transmit alerts to their subscribers. Participation is voluntary, but those who do sign up must have CMAS in operation by April 7.

Subscribers would receive three classes of messages presidential alerts; imminent threats, such as tornadoes or other extreme conditions; and Amber alerts for missing children on enabled handsets. Subscribers with enabled handsets do not need to opt in, and they could opt out of the imminent threat and Amber alerts, but not presidential alerts.

Sprint announced in November that it is offering Wireless Emergency Alerts on its mobile network under the CMAS program, beginning in New York City. During 2012 it will be working with FEMA, DHS and state and local agencies to roll it out nationwide.

About the Author

William Jackson is freelance writer and the author of the CyberEye blog.

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