President Obama able to text everyone in an emergency

Barack Obama will be able to send emergency text messages to any US phone, thanks to a new law set to be introduced next year.

Andy Merrett
Andy Merrett has been using mobile phones since the days when they only made voice calls. Since then he has worked his way through a huge number of Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson models. Andy is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.
Andy Merrett
2 min read

Barack Obama will be able to send text messages to any mobile phone in the United States, thanks to plans unveiled yesterday.

The Personal Localised Alerting Network (PLAN) is a new extension to the national Emergency Alert System, which makes use of TV and radio to broadcast critical information in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Set to roll out first in New York City next year, PLAN will cause phones to ring and vibrate in a unique pattern.

For the system to work, mobile phones must be fitted with a special chip, which will roll out next year the Telegraph reports. In theory this ensures that official messages can be identified and will always get through. State and local authorities will also be able to send alerts, with users free to opt out from all messages except those from the White House.

President Obama's use of technology continues to fascinate. His election campaign hinged around judicious use of Twitter, he's addicted to his BlackBerry, and he even watched Osama Bin Laden's death online as it happened.

Now, we're all for moving with the times, but do have a few concerns about how the new system would work.

First off, you can bet hackers are already planning to target the system. Conspiracy theorists will presume the additional chip is tracking their every move -- regardless of the fact that everyone knows where you are already.

And what if the president has a little too much to drink one night and, instead of texting suggestive messages to Michelle, sends sweet nothings to the whole of the East Coast? Worse still, that message uses up his monthly text allowance and he's unable to use PLAN for real.

How about the poor sods who've been enjoying their 3D apps too much and run out of battery just before the Commander in Chief sends a critical flood-warning text? Let's hope the US doesn't give up on good old-fashioned methods of emergency broadcast, like the telly, the radio and shouting hysterically in the streets.