California county upgrades emergency alerts to mobile phones
In Contra Costa County, Calif., a blend of heavily and sparsely populated areas fill the region, which also is home to a number of chemical plants, prone to earthquakes and close to ports and major highways.
To keep residents abreast of critical events that could endanger public safety, the county became the first jurisdiction to offer a new, mobile text-alert service to residents.
The service integrates a Mobile Alert Network offered by Reston, Va.-based SquareLoop Inc., which has formed a partnership with Sprint Nextel as the wireless provider.
Thanks to the service, officials can send emergency messages based on the subscriber’s actual geographic location as he or she travels. The Mobile Alert Network places technology in the cell phone’s handset to maintain location privacy of the subscriber.
Although the Mobile Alert Network offers location- and time-specific delivery of messages to mobile phones and devices, the service preserves user’s privacy by not relying on location tracking or central monitoring of a subscriber’s movements.
“SquareLoop’s geographically targeted alert system increases the relevancy of every mobile alert sent and the chances of that message being acted upon,” said Tom Stroup, CEO of SquareLoop. “We are pleased to work with Sprint to implement a new standard for emergency messaging that enables location-based delivery of messages without the need for tracking wireless subscribers.”
Other features of the messaging system include special alert tones and vibrating cadences, support for multiple languages, message groups and a text-to-speech version that can deliver messages as audio files.
“Contra Costa County offers one of the finest public warning systems in the country, and the addition of SquareLoop’s capabilities is the next big step to ensure the safety of our residents,” said Art Botterell, Community Warning System manager for the Office of the Sheriff in Contra Costa County. “We now have even greater ability to communicate with specific information and in specific locations, without compromising the privacy of our citizens.”
SquareLoop offers its subscribers a range of emergency notifications, such as AMBER alerts and information about events that pose significant danger to public safety. This solution meets recommendations proposed by the Federal Communications Committee’s (FCC) Cellular Messaging Alert System (CMAS) Committee, including the ability to geographically target the alerts and to differentiate the alert tones and vibrating cadences.
The Mobile Alert Network will be available nationwide to federal, state and local governments. Jurisdictions can contract directly with SquareLoop to deliver geographically targeted emergency alerts via participating wireless carriers in their respective area.
As an opt-in service, SquareLoop then delivers the messages to citizens who register via a Web site and obtain mobile services through a participating wireless carrier. Individuals are not required to pay for the alerts, although other fees may apply, based on the service plan selected with the specific wireless carrier.
For additional information about the Mobile Alert Network, visit http://www.squareloop.com/.