We've already established that technology can help in the aftermath of disaster - whether by keeping loved ones informed of victims' situations or by raising awareness of and money for relief efforts. It's also clear that such tools can aid in making political statements large (Egyptian revolution) and small (protests in Wisconsin).
But governments will soon use technology - text messaging, specifically - to warn citizens of incoming storms or hazardous situations that are in process. Much like colleges and universities now use text messaging to alert students and faculty to a gunman or other situation on campus, Bloomberg reports AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile have agreed to relay emergency text messages from federal, state and local governments to their customers.
The service, called the Personal Localized Alerting Network, will roll out first in New York and Washington, and will apply to any public emergency. According to the Federal Communications Commission, all customers whose wireless providers participate in PLAN will automatically receive PLAN alerts. There is no need to sign up for the service, which will be provided at no cost to the customers.