Yesterday, in an INPUT blog entry, “FEMA and FCC announce a new PLAN to keep the nation safe,” INPUT’s Kristin Howe, Analyst, Homeland Security & Justice/Public Safety, described the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to add text messaging to its Emergency Alert System (EAS) alerts through the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN) system.
At its core, the PLAN system will distribute free alert messages from local, state and national entities with a special tone that will also override other messages and calls. Those messages could notify citizens of weather warnings, Amber Alerts, presidential messages, national threats and other high-priority alerts.
While the major cell phone networks have already signed up to participate in the system by April 2012, utilizing the system will require a new PLAN-capable chip (and carriers are already working on developing that technology into all their 2012 phones). Howe’s assessment warned that the cost of PLAN chip development may be passed down to consumers, as there may be a need to upgrade cell phone networks and swapping to new phones. As such, communities hoping to better utilize the PLAN-enabled networks “may be more likely to approve the placement of cell towers to increase the coverage area if the safety of citizens is at stake.”
Opportunities for Small Businesses Unclear
We asked Kristin about potential opportunities for small and medium-sized business opportunities that might come about as part of the PLAN communication system. “At this point it’s unclear what the commercial implications would be for small businesses beyond the obvious heightened sales for those that sell mobile phones,” she said. But Howe did note that the Public-Private Partnership deal might offer some opportunity for those businesses looking to innovate for FCC and FEMA, as well as firms with experience performing cell tower construction, secure cell software creation and maintenance.