System pushes emergency alerts

A new emergency alert system is using "push" communications to send warnings and messages from federal, state or local governments directly to constituents via the Internet.

The Emergency Direct Messenger System (EDMS), developed by Fine Point Technologies Inc., consists of an application that users can acquire via download or CD-ROM and a server that government administrators use to log and manage messages.

Administrators use a simple point-and-click interface to organize which messages they want to send and to whom. The server can store custom messages for re-use and can log which users have received any given message.

When an administrator sends a message out, it appears in a small pop-up window on the subscriber's system and does not depend on whether the subscriber is actively scanning for such a message, said Antonia Townsend, vice president of marketing for Fine Point Technologies.

"The administrator sets the parameters for who is to receive what message according to a list of questions that people reply to when they first log onto the system or download the application," she said.

The idea for the system came when officials some localities decided to use the company's existing CyberTruck Direct Messenger application for their Amber Alert systems, which notify the public about abducted children.

One of the system's advantages, according to Townsend, is that a user's system does not need to be continually open to the Internet to receive a message. An applet is sent out by the system on a regular basis to check with the server to see if a message is being broadcast, and the system is open only as long as the applet needs to make that check.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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