Netherlands gets world's first nationwide SMS emergency alert system14 November 2012, by Carly Blair
The Netherlands just launched the world's first nationwide text message emergency alert system, called NL-Alert. The new system will allow authorities to warn people within the immediate area of an emergency situation (e.g. a major fire or flooding) by sending a text message to their mobile phones.
The text message will describe the situation and give instructions on what to do at that moment. All mobile phones in the relevant area will receive these messages automatically, provided that the NL-Alert channel has been activated and the phone is switched on and has reception. It is free of charge and it is not necessary to register.
The messages are not sent by texting per se, but rather by means of cell broadcasting, comparable to a radio signal. They are sent by way of the cell phone providers' transmitter masts. As a result, NL-Alert will still function in the event of a network overload.
Over half of all cell phones in the Netherlands, around 11 million in total, are already able to pick up an NL-Alert message, and this number will increase in the future. An increasing number of mobile phones are being sold with an automatic NL-Alert adjustment.
Photo by Flickr user jeff_kontur
As such, this new tool is a valuable addition to the existing means of warning people about emergency situations, such as the siren, the emergency broadcasting stations, and the crisis.nl website.