FCC rolling out Emergency Broadcast System for text message

The Personal Localized Alerting Network, or PLAN, is a new program devised by the FCC to keep Joe Citizen abreast of imminent safety threats in his area within the US.

Although the system won’t be available nationally until next April, it is rolling out in New York City and Washington DC later this year. And while towers sometimes get jammed with traffic during catastrophic events like the September 11th attacks or recent weather outbreaks, the government assures us that the geographically-targeted, text-like messages for your mobile-enabled device won’t be impeded by higher than normal network activity.

In a statement released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate explained the genesis for the program:

“Following the devastating tornadoes in the Southeast, we are witnessing yet again the critical role the public plays as part of our nation’s emergency management team. Making sure that they get useful and life-saving information, quickly and easily, right on their mobile phones, will help more people get out of harm’s way when a threat exists,” said FEMA Administrator Fugate. “This new technology could become a lifeline for millions of Americans and is another tool that will strengthen our nation’s resilience against all hazards.”

PLAN will be free to users, and is slated to deliver three types of alerts: alerts issued by the President, alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life and Amber Alerts. Carriers have the option of allowing users to block all but Presidential alerts.

One one occasion last year, location-aware social game Foursquare alerted some New York City users to a possible bomb threat in Times Square.