The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a new network that will bring emergency alerts for hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters to consumer cellphones. Dubbed the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), the network will allow officials to send geographically-targeted text messages to cellphones in areas where potentially dangerous conditions exist, according to a USA Today report. “The traditional alerts on radio and TV are still important, and they will continue, but more and more, mobile devices are becoming essential. You have them with you,” says FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “In the event of a major disaster, government authorities can get lifesaving information to you quickly.”
The four largest cellular providers in the U.S.—Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile—have all signed on to voluntarily initiate the service prior to an April 2012 deadline. According to the report, some iPhone models already have the circuitry necessary to receive PLAN alerts, although a software update will be necessary to activate the feature. The report did not specify which iPhone models have the necessary circuitry. Notably, all customers are automatically signed up for alerts, but can opt out of alerts relating to imminent threats to life and safety, as well as Amber Alerts; presidential alerts can not be disabled.