US Government to send emergency broadcasts to computers and mobile phones

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Washington (DC) - Information about the next natural disaster or attack could come straight to your cell phone or computer. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is adding a new component to its Digital Emergency Alert System that will send SMS and other alerts to mobile phones. With this new component in place, computers would get video messages along with downloadable instructions.

The Digital Emergency Alert System was originally launched in October 2004 as a six-month pilot program in the Washington, DC area. Digital television stations were recruited to display emergency messages through their data streams - something FEMA calls datacasting. FEMA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, claim these data streams now have enough bandwidth to send 19.4 megabits/sec or the equivalent of 13 T-1 lines.

Phase two of the pilot program involved the recruitment of several more television stations around the country. Now officials want computers and mobile phones to be included in the mix. Major vendors including Sprint, T-Mobile, Cingular, and XM Radio have joined the program.

When completed, DEAS will relay messages about natural disasters and biological, chemical and nuclear attacks. FEMA expects the system to be operational by 2008.