President Obama could send text message broadcasts to every cell phone in America if there was impending danger from a terrorist or natural disaster. The new emergency alert system is called PLAN (Personal Localized Alerting Network).
The PLAN program is an extension of the emergency broadcast alert system of the Federal Communications Commission. Currently, all broadcast alert messages are sent via radio or television.
The emergency text message alert system can send messages based on geographic locations and across multiple carriers. According to FEMA, special conditions are being created to ensure that all messages get priority over traditional delivery of text messages.
The ability to send text messages is not only in the domain of the President, however. Local, state, and national government officials will also be able to send public safety alerts through PLAN. The program will be available beginning April 2012.
Consumers do not need to opt-in to the emergency alerts, as they will automatically be opted in. There will be no charge to the consumer for receiving a text message through the emergency alert system. Consumers will be able to opt-out of all messages, except those being sent by the President.