Jun 11, 2003
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C.: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY), Chair of the Task Force on Homeland Security for the Democratic Caucus, urged Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge this week, to establish a comprehensive emergency alert system (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. Senator John Edwards (NC) introduced companion legislation in the Senate earlier this year.

In a letter to Ridge sent yesterday, Maloney notes that 95% 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 can be viewed in full at  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 disasters."

Congresswoman Maloney said, "Information can save lives in the critical moments before, during, and immediately following national disasters, but right now we are not taking full advantage of new communications technologies that could guide people on where to go or what to do during an emergency. Not everyone will be near a t.v. or radio at the time of an emergency, so it's vital that we use new communications systems like text messaging to reach people outdoors and in remote locations. It just makes sense to take advantage of the technology that's available to communicate better during disasters. We know from 9/11 that traditional phones and even cell phones can become unavailable during a disaster, so there's really no reason to ignore the alternatives that already exist."