From the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) News

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) urged Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to establish a comprehensive emergency alert system (EAS) in a news release. Maloney, chair of the Task Force on Homeland Security for the Democratic Caucus, reported her support of an EAS that takes full advantage of new communications technologies to better inform and guide the public during national disasters.

Maloney also announced plans to introduce legislation - the Emergency Warning Act of 2003 -- to require the establishment of a comprehensive national system for providing effective public warnings, using the full range of communications technologies available, including as appropriate -- special alert rings for traditional telephones; wireless technology, including cellular telephones and pagers; and the Internet, including electronic mail. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate earlier this year.

In a letter to Ridge, Maloney notes that 95 percent of attempted phone calls in New York City failed in the hours immediately following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, preventing emergency responders from communicating during critical hours after the disaster. The letter states, "Better use of text messaging and other satellite technologies during national disasters is vital to ensure that emergency responders have access to all modes of communication during crisis and to provide the public with communications alternatives that prevent entire systems from becoming overburdened. Furthermore, since text messaging technology is already available, DHS should consider establishing a uniform method of communicating with people who may be in transit, outdoors, or otherwise out of contact with traditional communications systems during a national disaster."

Maloney's letter further urged the Department. of Homeland Security to consider the use of new communications technologies such as text messaging to supplement traditional channels like television and radio.