Partnered with CellCast Communications and FEMA, Wisconsin-based wireless carrier Einstein Wireless is saying that they’re the first carrier in the nation to successfully test a cell broadcast system that will alert people about natural disasters, terrorist attacks, chemical explosions, wildfires and other life-threatening events.
Cell broadcast uses a feature already built into most cell phones that enables a government entity to simultaneously send an emergency message to large numbers of cell phones, and only to those in the specific geographically threatened area. The alert message is transmitted over a portion of bandwidth that is minimally used in normal cell calling, therefore not subject to degradation of normal cell phone use during a public emergency situation.
While cell broadcasting is something that should be definitely used in emergencies to keep the public informed (because who doesn’t have their cell on them at all times?), there are some problems with how different handsets treat the message. Some devices simply flash the message onto the screen silently, while others will drop it into the SMS messages folder and beep accordingly. Hopefully FEMA will eventually step in and regulate some sort of Emergency Cell Broadcast standard for all phones.