The Supercharged Technology Behind The Nemo Blizzard Emergency Alert

Brian Fung | Nextgov | February 8, 2013

With Winter Storm Nemo bearing down on the Northeast, many Americans are bracing for a blast of snow — but some Thursday got a blast of a different kind instead. Thousands of Verizon users reported getting an emergency alert about the coming blizzard on their cell phones that looked a bit like this:

That’s an older alert from December, but the format was the same. The message was signed “-NWS,” short for the National Weather Service. But if you’re worried that the widespread notifications are just a precursor to the black helicopters, relax. It’s part of a nationwide emergency alert system that went live in 2012. And we should be relieved that the system seemed to work exactly the way way it was supposed to.

But exactly the way it was supposed to still isn’t good enough. Not everyone got the alert because of the fact that the Commercial Mobile Alert System relies on mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T to support the service on a device-by-device basis...