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CMAS Emergency Alert on Prepaid Phones

The other day I was out with a friend when a loud blaring alarm started going off on their cell phone every hour on the hour. After some research I came to find that the blaring alarm on my friends phone was a test of the FCCs new emergency alert system, which they call CMAS.

CMAS stands for Commercial Mobile Alert System. This system was made by the FCC to inform the public about impending terrorism attacks or natural disasters like a tornado. It works different than sending texts for a few reasons:

1. The message is sent on a different frequency than text messages or picture messages so that the message won’t be slowed down by network congestion.
2. The message is sent only to specific locations. Instead of alarming the whole nation, it can pin point the alarm to a specific location such as Lower Manhattan for example.
3. The message has its own alert sound different from your text message alert. From what I heard it’s a loud blaring alarm not unlike a fire alarm and your phone also vibrates when the alarm is received.

Sounds like a great system but I was wondering how come my friends phone received this alarm and my phone sat in silence? According to the CMAS website, to get the alarm your network carrier needs to volunteer to send out CMAS messages and your phone also has to be CMAS ready.

There are three types of CMAS alerts:
1) President Alerts
2) Imminent Threat Alerts
3) Amber Alerts

According to the FCC site, you should be able to disable all alerts except President Alerts, though I can’t think of a reason why you would disable any of the alerts. Also said on the website is that prepaid phones should support the alerts as long as your service provider participates in the service. This is good because I use prepaid phones. The only thing I couldn’t find is a list of participating providers. I feel like all providers should participate and that phones supporting this feature should highlight this feature. I do not want a phone that does not support CMAS alerts, so considering I didn’t get the test alerts, I may be switching out my phone.

It seems hard to find information which let me know if a phone supports this feature. This alert could be the difference between life and death. An alert can give you the advance notice you need to get out just in time. I wouldn’t want to be without this important alert just because my phone or carrier doesn’t support it. One good thing to note is most newer phones will support CMAS including the latest Alcatel A382G from TracFone.

Comments

I do not think that the alert messages use a different frequency but a different channel (frequency multiplex vs. time multiplex)

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