Cover Story

New York City Has a PLAN

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  June 01, 2011

When emergency strikes, helping people understand what to do is of key importance. To enable that to happen in an orderly fashion, New York City and federal agencies have joined forces with the big four cellular service providers to introduce the Personal Localized Alerting Network.

PLAN, a free service that will allow mobile subscribers to get text alerts about safety threats in the area, is expected to go live in the Big Apple (News - Alert) by the end of the year. The launch was announced last month by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FCC, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon (News - Alert). With PLAN, authorized government officials can send messages which participating wireless providers then push to enabled mobile devices in a targeted geographic area, and these alerts will not be stalled by congestion on the network.

“In both the public and private sectors, I’ve always believed in the need to harness technology in new ways, including ways that its designers hadn’t anticipated,” says Bloomberg (News - Alert). “The City’s opt-in Notify NYC system is a great example of that: It alerts people to dangers and delays via email and mobile devices, and it has become a national model of emergency communication.

“But given the kinds of threats made against New York City at the World Trade Center, Times Square, and other places popular with visitors and tourists, we’ll be even safer when authorities can broadcast warnings to everyone in a geographic area regardless of where they came from or bought their phone.”

FCC (News - Alert) Chairman Genachowski adds that mobile broadband has the potential to revolutionize emergency response.

“Our communications networks need to be reliable and resilient in times of emergency,” adds Genachowski.  “The FCC is working with carriers to ensure that they are.” 

Under the Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act passed by Congress in 2006, carriers that choose to participate were asked to activate PLAN technology by a deadline determined by the FCC, which is April 2012.  That said, PLAN should be launched by the nation’s four top cellular providers at least two calendar quarters ahead of schedule in New York City.  The organizations involved in the PLAN announcement for New York City did not outline any details to bring PLAN to other areas of the country.

Edited by Rich Steeves