FEMA to manage cellular alert system

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to be the aggregator for a national alert and warning system for cell phone users, a senior government official announced today.

FEMA will perform as unified aggregator for the Commercial Mobile Alert System under a framework created by the Federal Communications Commission, retired Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville, assistant director of National Continuity Programs for the Homeland Security Department, said in a news release.

The alert system, mandated by Congress in the Warning Alert Response Network Act, will allow federal, state and local emergency alerts to be sent by authorized senders. FEMA, as the aggregator, will verify the authenticity of the alerts and pass them to commercial mobile phone providers, who will pass them on to their subscribers.

Several technical issues remain to be resolved in developing the system, including developing specifications that will allow the emergency alerts to override nonemergency traffic, Rainville said.

In related news, Rainville said that FEMA will announce its position on adopting the Common Alert Protocol messaging standard for delivering emergency alerts within the next 30 to 60 days. The protocol is an open-source standard for emergency messages developed by volunteers and adopted by a number of federal, state and local agencies on various emergency alert systems in recent years, including FEMA.

Emergency alert and warning systems have been an active area for government contractors, especially for those in the areas of communications technologies, software solutions and hardware devices. Public emergency warning systems typically are purchased and operated by state and local agencies.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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