PIGEON, MI – Testing has begun for the new Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) that will be launched by Thumb Cellular this April.
Using CMAS, Thumb Cellular will forward alerts from government agencies to individuals’ wireless devices, informing subscribers of public safety and severe weather emergencies.
When fully operational in April, CMAS will provide three types of messages—Presidential (national defense), Imminent Threat (severe weather or public safety emergency), and AMBER (child abduction) alerts. These alerts will be sent free of charge to wireless subscribers in a targeted geographic area corresponding to the scope of the emergency. In the event of an emergency, such as a tornado or flood, the alerts will provide information about actions that wireless customers can take to protect themselves and their property.
Of the three types of alerts, two of them (Imminent Threat and AMBER) can be opted out of by the customer. The Presidential alerts will be received by all subscribers who have a CMAS-capable device.
“The testing went fairly well,” stated Paul Picklo, general manager of Thumb Cellular. “We had a couple of hiccups, most notably that we had a setting in the test platform to rebroadcast the message every five hours, which caused some confusion and aggravation to some customers.”
“We truly apologize for that,” Picklo said. “We found the error, and we don’t anticipate that happening again.”
Currently, Thumb Cellular has only limited models that have the capabilities of accepting CMAS messages. They include the Motorola Milestone X2 and a couple of newer BlackBerry devices.
“This government initiative wasn’t mandatory so not all carriers chose to participate; therefore not all phone manufacturers have been building the CMAS capabilities into their devices. Going forward, however, we’re going to see many more devices that that have accept the CMAS messages,” Picklo said.
“It’s one of those things we hope we never have to use, but if we do Thumb Cellular and our customers are ready,” Picklo said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are implementing CMAS as a result of the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act passed by Congress in 2006.
Additional information about CMAS is available on the FEMA website: http://www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws/cmas.shtm