Emergency Broadcast System Coming to Cell Phones

The Emergency Broadcast System is getting a modern-day upgrade -- moving from the television to the cell phone.

Today (Nov. 16), communications company Alcatel-Lucent announced the creation of the Broadcast Message Center (BMC), a feature that enables government agencies to send immediate alerts to mobile phones in the event of a state, local or national emergency.

The messages, similar to the warnings that periodically interrupt television broadcasts, will be sent via text message using the BMC, and will be geographically-targeted. For example, an alert pertaining to a road closure in a particular town will only be distributed to mobile phones in that area, while a significantly larger group of people will receive text warnings in the event of a city-specific or nationwide crisis.

The BMC will act as a "secure interface between the emergency management agency" and the mobile phone carrier, the press release said. Warnings will contact people in the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster, inclement weather, highway accident, business evacuation, school or campus emergency, Amber Alert and other crises.

Morgan Wright, vice president of Alcatel-Lucent, stressed the need for a messaging system that works with modern society.

"With the public increasingly relying on cell phones, it becomes mission critical for service providers to be able to share critical, time-sensitive information over these devices during times of crisis," Wright said.

The Broadcast Message Center has been tested already in San Diego and Tampa, and is currently in field trials with all the major mobile phone carriers, said Mark Hudson, Alcatel-Lucent spokesperson. Hudson told SecurityNewsDaily that the BMC is scheduled to be in operation by April 2012.