Federal regulators as early as Wednesday are expected to take a major step toward development of a nationwide emergency alert system that would send text messages to cellphones and other mobile devices wherever a crisis occurs, reports USA Today. Lack of a simple way to deliver vital warnings to residents has hindered emergency response in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, recent college-campus shootings, and a spate of devastating tornadoes in the Southeast in February.
The Federal Communications Commission is slated to establish technical standards and other requirements that for the first time would make such communication possible, two FCC officials say. Although wireless carriers would not be required to upgrade their networks to accommodate the alerts, those that agree to participate would have to implement the FCC’s standards. All four national cellphone providers – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile – said they almost certainly will take part if the FCC adopts an advisory committee’s recommendations on how the system would work. The agency is expected to approve those proposals, which, among other things, would initially limit warnings to the English language and 90 characters in length, officials say.