In accordance with the Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act of 2006, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), which is designed to allow public officials to send urgent messages to wireless device users within range of a particular cellular antenna or wireless transmission system. A complement to multi-modal mass notification systems, CMAS technology will allow federal agencies to transmit text alerts from the president of the United States and from the National Weather Service (NWS), as well as local emergency operations centers. After releasing the CMAS architecture and standards in December 2009, the FCC set an implementation deadline of April 2012 for commercial providers that choose to participate.
In anticipation of the FCC’s 2012 deadline, Florida created a Cell Broadcast initiative to test CMAS-compliant cell broadcast technology. Through a public-private partnership with Washington-based mass notification provider Blackboard Connect; Paris, France-based telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent; gateway host solution provider St. Charles, Mo-based Cellcast Corp.; and Richardson, Texas-based cell carrier MetroPCS, more than 80 CMAS emergency alerts were successfully delivered to handsets in Pasco and Polk counties in September 2010.
The tests proved the CMAS standard and established a delivery timeline of between 2 and 10 seconds from the time an alert was sent to the time it was received over the network to the mobile devices, according to Jim Johnston, operations coordinator for Pasco County. County officials also confirmed that the system will accept and display the message as outlined in the standard. “The public is becoming increasingly dependent on mobile devices. This provides an efficient and effective way for us to reach community members — anytime, anywhere, when it matters most for protecting public safety,” Johnston says.
Now that the CMAS standard has been demonstrated, the state and its service providers will recommend modifications to the standard. In the next phase of Florida’s Cell Broadcast initiative, the state will collaborate with additional carriers and handset manufacturers to move toward implementation statewide.
Project: Cell broadcast test for emergency alerts
Jurisdictions: Florida, Pasco and Polk counties
Agencies: Florida Division of Emergency Management, Pasco County Office of Emergency Management, and Polk County Emergency Management Division
Vendors: Washington-based Blackboard Connect; Paris, France-based Alcatel-Lucent; St. Charles, Mo-based Cellcast Corp. and Richardson, Texas-based MetroPCS
Date: September 2010