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Bush Orders Update of Emergency Alert System

June 27, 2006, abstract article S.S. Hsu, Washington Post

President Bush yesterday ordered Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to overhaul the nation’s hodgepodge of public warning systems, acknowledging a critical weakness unaddressed since the 2001 terrorist attacks and exposed again last year by Hurricane Katrina.

The Emergency Alert System, best known for weather bulletins and Amber Alerts for missing children, should be upgraded to explore communicating by cellphones, personal digital assistants and text pagers targeted to geographic areas or specific groups, U.S. officials said.

In a 30-paragraph executive order issued by the White House without comment, Bush assigned Chertoff to implement a freshly stated U.S. policy “to ensure that under all conditions the President can communicate with the American people,” including in cases of war, terrorist attack, natural disaster or other public danger.

The move follows mounting criticism that the nation’s alert systems are outmoded relics of the Cold War. The first was set up in 1951 to enable the president to address the public in the event of nuclear attack through a chain of television and radio broadcasters.

Under existing rules, for example, participation of broadcasters in state and local alerts is voluntary. The Federal Communications Commission limits messages to two minutes, and the system’s technology is outdated.

The Emergency Alert System was never used during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but the independent commission that investigated them concluded that “adequate communications” are central to government and private-sector preparedness. Legislation that overhauled U.S. intelligence activities in 2004 required a study of using telecommunications networks in an all-hazards warning system, but the report has not been done.

In February, the White House again called for an update of the Emergency Alert System in its report on the flawed response to Hurricane Katrina, noting that state and local officials failed to use it to warn the public before the storm.

Cellphone networks are susceptible to denial of service attacks: advice use Cell Broadcast for mass communication

Seems that cellular networks are susceptible to the same types of denial of service attacks that have plagued the Internet. A paper published by Penn State says pushing 165 SMS messages per second is sufficient to congest both voice and messaging traffic in all of Manhattan. While cellular companies say they have safeguards in place, researchers contend that “all major cellular networks were vulnerable” and a skilled hacker with a single computer, a list of a several thousand cellphone numbers from a common area, and broadband access could do the deed. Researchers even went so far as to prove (on a small scale) their theories by “very carefully” testing with their own cellphones.
Believe them or not, it’s only a matter of time until the theory is tested on a massive scale now that the detailed paper has been released online.
(Source: T.Ricker)
Weblog editor Masera: An alternative for mass communication from the Governement in case of emergency, on which both voice and messaging traffic overload have no effect is the mobile technology called Cell Broadcasting. In some countries already implemented, a welcome feature in case of emergencies, when the citizen have to be instructed by the Government on the location where they are, without losing time.


Cell broadcasting for dissemination of flood warnings

The intensive use of cell phones world-wide has now enabled the development of a new and very powerful methodology for dissemination of flood warnings to populations exposed to flooding.

The dissemination of flood warnings to people living in flood prone areas have often been ineffective, late and of limited value. Quick and efficient mass communication during critical hours of natural disasters is a challenge in any society. New technology is now available to provide very efficient and focused dissemination of flood warnings to flood prone people.

Cell broadcasting is an existing function of most modern digital mobile phone systems such as GSM and UMTS. It differs from SMS in that, while it does put text messages on the screen of the phone like SMS does, it does this to ‘all-at-once’ and not one-at-a-time as SMS does.

G8 calls for more effective early warning system to reduce disasters

G8 calls for more effective early warning system to reduce disasters
The leaders of the most industrialized countries at the recent G8 Summit in Gleneagles, recognized the relevance of disaster risk reduction for development programmes and the importance to support international efforts to improve global early warning capacity and building a more effective International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, with strong leadership from the United Nations.
See report

Cell-alert, via Cell Broadcast

What is Cell Broadcasting?

Cell Broadcasting (CB) is an existing function of most modern digital mobile phone systems, such as GSM UMTS and CDMA. It differs from SMS in that, while it does put text messages on the screen of the phone, (like SMS does), it does this to ‘all-at-once ‘and not one-at-a-time as SMS does.

This is particularly valuable in times of emergency as government may need to reach millions of citizens within seconds; all while telecom systems are in full overload!

CB works even in full overload, does not itself contribute to load, will not crash the networks, and can reach 95% of mobile phone users within about 20-30 seconds.

CB is scalable from about one block to the whole country, without causing significant overload problems of its own.

Since it uses existing mobile networks infrastructure, it is suitable for developed and least developed countries alike,

Significantly, we have developed technology whereby the senders can select the area where the message is to be sent, giving the ability to give different messages to different areas.

In addition, since there are 65000 different channels, different uses can be kept apart so that people are not bothered by spam. This means that many other uses can be found for this feature, some of which may be used by mobile devices but some of which may be for other devices., such as in car navigation and information services.

The Mobile Data Corporation will make the necessary arrangements so that users do not conflict with each other, and there is no negative impact on the networks.

What is Cell@lert(sm)?

CEASA formed Cell@lert(sm) to find technical solutions, and develop technology accordingly if it did not yet exist. CellAlert(sm) is the for-profit organisation which implements the actual technology that provides the Cell Broadcast Broker and other infrastructure to make the service actually happen. They follow the ‘rules’ as set out by the local CEASA association for that sovereign state.