LINCOLN, Neb. -- For the last month, the city has been fine tuning Lincoln and Lancaster County's new PC-based emergency alert system that will improve public notification of local, state and national emergency warnings.

The PC-based emergency alert system will provide rapid notification of severe weather, state Amber Alerts for missing children and emergencies issued through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or other state or local officials. The system will also send instant alerts to palm devices and cell phones capable of web connections.

City and county residents obtain the alert software by downloading it from Lincoln's Web site, and an icon for the system is installed on the user's taskbar or desktop.

"This is a live instantaneous notification that computer users will receive within seconds after the emergency is declared," said systems project manager Terry Lowe, of Lincoln's Information Services Division.

The system will sit idle in a personal computer until an alert is issued. When an emergency is declared, it will sound a warning through the PC, followed by a pop-up screen explaining the type of emergency. The user can reduce the screen after receiving the alert, but updated information will scroll across the bottom of the screen.

"This system is much more than an extension of the emergency weather warning system," said Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely. "This is part of the next generation of the emergency public warning system and takes early warning to a much higher level."

The system will carry emergency alerts issued by the president, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and National Weather Service; emergencies declared by the governor; Amber Alerts issued by Nebraska for missing children; and local emergencies declared by the County Emergency Management Service, the mayor, Police Department, Fire Department, the county Sheriff, and the city/county Health Department.

To complete the testing of the service, the system will be phased in beginning with the Police Department, Fire Department, the county Sheriff, 911 Center, Health Department and Emergency Management Center.

The system will then be available to all city and county government-owned PCs. The alert system will then be offered to the Lincoln Public Schools, area hospitals and public and private safety coordinators, such as those at the area universities and colleges and the general public through the city/county Web site.