Sprint Enables SMS Emergency Text Alert System, Scores A US Carrier First

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By Miro Stoichev

Today, Sprint (NYSE: S) marks another milestone in delivering critical and reliable communication services to consumers during crisis situations by becoming the first U.S. carrier to offer Wireless Emergency Alerts on its mobile network.

Wireless Emergency Alerts allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to accept and deliver warning messages to wireless networks from the president of the United States, the National Weather Service and state and local emergency operations centers. Sprint customers will be able to effectively and accurately receive warnings and safety information via text alerts to mobile phones that are equipped with the enabling software and based on their geographic location.

Later this year, Sprint will conduct the nation’s first test of Wireless Emergency Alerts in New York City, along with the New York City Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, and FEMA. The test will deliver a series of different geo-targeted wireless alerts to multiple Sprint mobile phones strategically located in Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

“Providing immediate, reliable wireless communications before, during and following an emergency situation is trademark of Sprint’s service,” said Steve Elfman, Sprint president of Network Operations and Wholesale. “Sprint is proud to be the first wireless carrier in the U.S. to offer this service, and we look forward to testing this critical service in a city that is the epicenter of our nation’s financial, media and fashion markets.”

Implementing wireless emergency alerts on the Sprint network

The availability of Wireless Emergency Alerts on Sprint’s network is the result of the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) – a national program established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to the Warning, Alert and Response Act passed by Congress in 2006.

Earlier this year, Sprint joined the FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and FEMA agency administrator W. Craig Fugate in committing to the deployment of a wireless emergency alert system.

In the fall of 2010, Sprint became the first national wireless carrier to successfully perform a trial of the wireless emergency alerts technology with the California Emergency Management Agency and the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services. The trial, which took place in October 2010 through late November 2010, tested the wireless emergency alert technology across urban, suburban and rural areas; included the involvement of law enforcement agencies, local jurisdictions and other regional partners; and assessed factors related to messaging delivery, length and recipient location.

During the next year, Sprint will continue working with FEMA, DHS, and numerous state and local emergency agencies to successfully make the alerts available nationwide.

Using wireless emergency alerts on the Sprint network

Sprint’s customers can currently access wireless emergency alerts on the following devices: HTC EVO Design 4GTM, HTC EVO 3DTM, Kyocera BrioTM, Kyocera Duracore, Kyocera DuraMax, Kyocera MilanoTM, LG MarqueeTM, Samsung Galaxy STM II, EpicTM 4G Touch, Samsung TrenderTM, Samsung Transform UltraTM, Sanyo InnuendoTM by Kyocera and Sanyo VeroTM by Kyocera.

The 90-character alerts will be delivered at no charge to the customer and have a distinctive vibration cadence and audio tone similar to what is heard for emergency alerts on broadcast television and radio. Additionally, notification of a wireless emergency alert will be distinguished in the handset’s messaging inbox with a distinctive icon.

On devices that are capable of receiving the alerts, Sprint customers can activate the service by dialing ##CMAS# or ##2627#, and choosing to “enable the CMAS client” when prompted.

The wireless emergency alerts will be available in three categories – Presidential Alerts, Imminent Threats to Life and Property, and AMBER Alerts – and provide mobile users an additional tool for learning of impending danger in relation to their current location. Wireless users can opt out of all message types with the exception of presidential alerts.

Some potential examples of these alerts include:

  • An emergency message could be targeted to cell phones at a stadium event, informing attendees of where to go or what direction to drive following a nearby highway accident or chemical spill.
  • Emergency information related to wildfires, mudslides, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes could be targeted to residents in specific neighborhoods or along routes where the danger is greatest.
  • Students and faculty across a campus could be quickly informed when lockdown conditions are necessary because of a threat.
  • If a suspicious package were reported in an airport, shopping mall or office complex, thousands could receive messages to move to a certain area until the threat was removed.
  • Potential witnesses can learn of recently missing or abducted children in their immediate area.

Visit Sprint’s online community site or FEMA.gov to learn more about Wireless Emergency Alerts and the CMAS program.

About Sprint Nextel

Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users. Sprint Nextel served more than 53 million customers at the end of 3Q 2011 and is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including the first wireless 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; offering industry-leading mobile data services, leading prepaid brands including Virgin Mobile USA, Boost Mobile, and Assurance Wireless; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. Newsweek ranked Sprint No. 3 in its 2011 Green Rankings, listing it as one of the nation’s greenest companies, the highest of any telecommunications company.

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