Massachusetts Adopts New Mobile Phone Emergency Alert App

! Massachusetts will be the first in the country to adopt a statewide emergency notification system for smart-phones. Governor Deval Patrick and officials with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency unveiled the new app at the agency’s renovated headquarters in Framingham.

It’s called “PING4ALERTS!” and it will allow MEMA to push text, video and audio messages to smart phones whose users have signed up for the free service. MEMA spokesman Peter Judge says there is one key feature of the technology: his agency will be able to tailor the alerts so they are sent to phones throughout the state — or to phones only in specifically designated geographic areas — right down to street level.

“There’s some initial message on there which will warn people “your neighborhood is in the line of the tornado, or your neighborhood will have state police or local police looking for a fugitive; we want you to stay indoors”, or “there’s a gas leak in you neighborhood” or something along those lines – we could get to those folks instantly with this app.”

After the initial alert — which can wake “sleeping” phones — the system will provide other data and links relevant to the situation, Judge says. For the service to work, users will need to turn on the “location services” setting on their phones. But, Judge says, the personal location information or data will not be collected by the company or the state. 

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