The US government will soon be sending warnings of national emergencies on mobile phones, websites and hand-held computers.
The new digital system will update the emergency alerts planned – but never used – during the Cold War in the event of a nuclear strike.
More likely, these 21st-century technologies will carry warnings of natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
The Homeland Security Department, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), expects to have the system working by the end of next year.
Though still in its pilot stages, the system is being demonstrated today at a public TV station in suburban Virginia.
The Association of Public Television Stations is partnering with Fema to transmit the alerts to receiving networks ranging from wireless devices, cable TV channels and satellite radio to traditional broadcast outlets.
“Anything that can receive a text message will receive the alert,” Homeland Security Department spokesman Aaron Walker said yesterday.