New Yorkers will be rapidly alerted to potentially dangerous situations -- ranging from terrorist threats to impending hazardous weather -- under a new text notification program.
The new system will be automatic, unlike NotifyNYC, a citywide alert program New York launched two years ago that requires users to sign up to receive updates.
New Yorkers can expect several kinds of alerts: warnings directly from President Obama, messages about immediate safety threats and Amber Alerts about missing kids.
Participation in the network is free, although mobile devices need a special chip to be compatible with the new system. Even users who turn off the GPS locator technology on their phones will receive the alerts, which will be sent out to all users in range of one or more cellphone towers selected by authorities. Responding to privacy concerns, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said that no location or other information from the phones will be sent to authorities. The alert plan was approved by Congress in 2006 under the Warning Alert and Response Network Act. If it had been available, the alert system could have warned residents of two destructive tornadoes that hit Brooklyn and Queens last year, killing one woman and causing extensive property damage, Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Bruno said. On Thursday, people in New York with capable phones will receive text messages that will either say "severe alert" or "extreme alert." It's no reason for panic.

The New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), together with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), are conducting a test on the WEA system - a new, free emergency notification program that will send messages to people who might be in an affected area. When in place, the WEA system will allow the FCC and FEMA to send out texts about natural disasters, terrorist attacks and AMBER alerts for missing children. The New York test comes days after Verizon Wireless accidentally sent an emergency alert, telling some of their customers in the Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties of New Jersey that an extreme alert was in place. Even though the New Jersey office of Homeland Security tweeted that there was no danger, the surprise alert scared many residents. Just a test, but Verizon's 'civil emergency' text message spells fear, confusion around N.J.
Rumson authorities issued its own alert to citizens in the Monmouth County community: "THERE IS NO EMERGENCY. Phones on the AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon networks that are WEA-capable may receive the messages during the test, according to officials with the New York City Office of Emergency Management.
According to WCBS the system will be in place in cities across the country by the end of 2012. The screen of the device will either say "Severe Alert" or "Extreme Alert," but if a user reads on further, they will see the following message: "This is a test from NYC Office of Emergency Mgmt.

Cell phone companies may allow customers to block some of the messages, but certain alerts must go through.
Bloomberg said officials would have to be mindful of sending alerts in a way that would avoid mass panic.
CMAS refers to the Commercial Mobile Alert System, a public safety initiative that involves FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission and subscribed wireless phone carriers. The alert sparked confusion that spread online via Twitter, before authorities confirmed that there was no actual danger.
He hit the wrong buttons, and it ended up cutting in and issuing a terror attack alert all over Pennsylvania. The alert appeared to have only affected Droid-operated phones, said Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden.

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