In the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, one of the ideas we discussed here a bit was the creation of a disaster alert system using SMS, the mobile phone text messaging system. Washington DC and New York City have implemented limited versions; now the idea's popped up in Holland. According to CNN, the Dutch government is testing a system called Cell Broadcast to send out regionally-targeted warnings of disaster to mobile phone users.
"This is a more instantaneous way of informing people about what is going on right now. It's an extra medium to communicate directly with people during a disaster," [Interior ministry spokesman Frank van Beers ] said. "If something happens in the center of The Hague, for example, we can select communication points from telecom companies and everyone who is within a few 100 meters can get the information."
Other scenarios could include terrorist attacks, fires, explosions and leaks of toxic substances.
As Taran Rampersad at KnowProSE points out, the main drawback is that this is a one-way system, keeping people in the role of disaster victims rather than participants in disaster response.
SMS can block cellular phone calls. If not careful this could become a denial of service.
Denial of Service shouldn't be an issue where nobody can make voice calls. Further, SMS doesn't clog a properly set up system - it just queues it up.
If people can make voice calls... they won't need to use a bidirectional SMS system.
Now, when you can propagate a network *using* mobile phones... figure in 10 years, we should be there.