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Update: U.S. launches wireless public safety network

Joab Jackson, IDG News Service | May 11, 2011
The U.S. government and the nation's top mobile-phone service providers on Tuesday launched a public safety program that will allow people to receive emergency alerts via text message.

In the press conference, Bloomberg noted that New York City can host around 4 million visitors a day, in addition to its 8.8 million residents. Such a system would be invaluable in getting word out about safety threats, both to residents and visitors, Bloomberg said. The system will broadcast messages to the cell phone towers closest to the emergency, so that every cell phone that has communication with these towers will get the emergency messages.

"If people need to take action, the system can transmit instructions clearly, accurately and in a timely manner, which is something that could save countless lives," Bloomberg said.

"PLAN could make a tremendous difference during disasters like the recent tornadoes in Alabama where minutes -- or even seconds -- of extra warning could make the difference between life and death," said FCC's Genachowski during the press conference. The conference was held across the street from where New York's World Trade Center towers once stood, as a reminder that emergencies can strike anywhere, Bloomberg said.

FEMA's Fugate emphasized that it was important for the government to reach people in emergencies by way of the technologies they use today. PLAN is "focused on mobile devices, devices that almost everybody has today in their pockets, and the first things they turn to when to find out more information," he said.


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