Fla. Tests 1st CMAS Compliant Cell Broadcast Message Emergency Alerts

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state of Florida has completed the first end-to-end cell broadcast technology test following the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) standard in a public-private partnership with: Blackboard Inc., provider of the Blackboard Connect mass notification platform, telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent and CellCast Technologies LLC provider of the alert origination and aggregator/gateway applications. These partners successfully delivered CMAS emergency alerts to handsets on the MetroPCS wireless network throughout Pasco and Polk counties in September 2010.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in accordance with the WARN Act of 2006, has established a timeline governing commercial deployment of CMAS by the wireless industry and alert service providers. The FCC released the CMAS architecture and standards in December 2009 and set an implementation deadline of April 2012 for commercial providers that choose to participate. CMAS is designed to allow public officials to send urgent messages to wireless users within range of a particular cellular antenna or wireless transmission system.

As an initial notification for imminent emergencies, Cell Broadcast alerts provide basic information in seconds to wireless users. The message contains what the hazard is, the area affected, the expected duration, what to do immediately, and how to get additional information. The information allows the receiver to react and protect themselves while being directed to additional information sources or systems. Cell Broadcast will serve as a powerful complement to multi-modal mass notification systems – helping to build an even more comprehensive next-generation public safety communications system.

CMAS will allow federal agencies to transmit alerts from the President of the United   States, life threatening alerts from the National Weather Service (NWS), local emergency operations centers, and will push the alerts through participating wireless providers who will distribute the alerts to their customers via Cell Broadcast text messages.

“Floridians are always proud to be on the forefront of security technology,” said David Halstead, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “From hurricanes, to wildfires, homeland security and AMBER Alerts, there are many life-saving and safety-enhancing applications for Cell Broadcast alerts – and Florida is playing a true leadership role.”

Florida’s successful test serves as a strong example of the potential for CMAS standards, to leverage the existing capability of our Emergency Alert System (EAS). In the next phase of Florida’s Cell Broadcast initiative, the State and its service providers hope to continue to validate and improve upon the standard, work with industry representatives to develop the widest range of devices enabled with the ability to receive alerts and move toward implementation statewide. Statewide implementation of the system will allow testing as a means to provide official information targeted to business, tourism and education communities.

The project was coordinated by the Cellular Emergency Alert Services Association, and addresses cross-border harmonization, multiple-languages, and commercial sustainability, in addition to meeting CMAS rule requirements. It was modeled after the European Union’s Project CHORTIS.

“CMAS technology holds the remarkable promise of reaching every wireless user in a targeted geographic area with potentially urgent information,” said Ed Miller, president of Blackboard Connect.

“CMAS means more people will potentially get the message when safety matters most: residents, visiting students, part-time populations and tourists alike will benefit. Now that we’ve proven the concept, we’re excited to get to work encouraging its adoption across Florida and elsewhere.” said Brendan Cotter, SVP of Market Development for Blackboard Connect.

The CMAS technology enabled by Alcatel-Lucent’s Broadcast Message Center (BMC), which served as the secure interface between the CellCast Aggregator/Gateway and MetroPCS wireless network to deliver emergency alert messages.

“With the public becoming increasingly dependent upon mobile devices, it is mission critical for service providers to be able to immediately share emergency information over cell phones when public safety and personal property may be at risk,” said Morgan Wright, vice president of Global Public Safety Solutions, Alcatel-Lucent.

CellCast Technologies provided its EAGLE Alerts for Message Origination and transmitted the messages in CAP v1.2 to the patented CellCast Aggregator/Gateway which then converted the messages to CMAC and forwarded them to Alcatel-Lucent’s BMC (CMSP Gateway). “By commissioning this project the State of Florida has taken a significant step forward in delivering life-saving messages to its citizens and visitors.” said Shayne Barr, managing director, CellCast Technologies LLC.

State of Florida Division of Emergency Managment Oct. 14, 2010 press release


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