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EBS boldly enters 21st century, preparing SMS alerts

Chris Ziegler

Although the nuclear war for which it was designed thankfully never happened, the US' Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) soldiers on, occasionally interrupting our Wheel of Fortune viewing with disconcerting bloops and bleeps. FEMA, recognizing that the mobile phone now easily outstrips traditional media for reaching the uninformed masses in the event of a crisis, is finally turning to text messaging to give us a heads-up on air raids and the like. A system for distributing emergency text messages from the nation's digital TV stations to carrier networks has been in testing since 2004 and is getting ready for its public debut in the Gulf area by the end of the year, with rollouts in large cities nationwide thereafter. Apparently, the texts do little else but tell you to flip on your TV -- and you'll be able to opt out if you so choose -- but if we can track down that frighteningly dissonant EBS tone to use as our incoming message indicator, we're all for it.

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