Reporting Paul Murnane
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A new national alert system is set to begin in New York City that will alert the public to emergencies via cell phones.
It’s called the Personal Localized Alert Network or PLAN. Presidential and local emergency messages as well as Amber Alerts would appear on cell phones equipped with special chips and software.
The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the system would also warn about terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
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“The lessons that were reinforced on 9/11 is the importance of getting clear and accurate information to the public during a crisis,” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Verizon and AT&T, the nation’s largest cell phone carriers, are already on board. Consumers would be able to opt out of all but those presidential messages.
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“We believe this new alert system is a welcome addition to our arsenal of readiness,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. “It’s like a police officer’s gun: it’s there for a good reason but we hope that we never have to pull the trigger.”
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For now, the alerts are capable on certain high-end cell phones but starting next year, all cell phones will be required to have the chip that receives alerts.
By the end of the year, the new system will be in place in New York City and Washington and in cities around the country by the end of 2012.
Bloomberg made the announcement about the new system Tuesday morning with FCC chairman Julius Genashowski and other federal and local officials.
This new emergency alert system is part of the Warning Alert and Response Network Act that was approved by Congress in 2006.
New York City already has an emergency alert in place called Notify NYC. Bloomberg says it’s the largest opt-in notification alert system in the country.