About CMAS and this Discussion Forum

Below are Frequently Asked Questions about CMAS and this online discussion. More information is available on FEMA's CMAS webpage.

What is CMAS?
Who is hosting this discussion?
What is being discussed here? Why are we only discussing geo-targeting and public response?
What will be done with my input and ideas?
Who are the critical partners in the development of CMAS?
How does CMAS work?
How is a CMAS alert different from a regular text message?
What types of alerts will be sent over CMAS?
Do I have to sign up to receive CMAS alerts on my mobile device?
Can users opt out of CMAS alerts?
Will users be billed for CMAS alerts that they receive?
When will CMAS alerts be active on my phone?
How will we know CMAS works?
Will CMAS track a user’s location or personal data?
Are ideas or comments ever removed from the website?

What is CMAS?

The Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS) is a system that will provide an interface to participating cellular mobile service providers for delivery of critical alert information to cellular phones in a danger zone. CMAS is being developed and tested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and is one of the major components of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). Specifically, the CMAS capability will provide local, tribal, state, territorial, and Federal government officials the ability to send 90-character, geographically-targeted text alerts to the public.

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Who is hosting this discussion?

The CMAS Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) Program at DHS S&T is hosting this discussion to solicit stakeholder input in determining the priority focus areas of the CMAS research and development agenda. DHS S&T is responsible for setting the research and development agenda for CMAS.

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What is being discussed here? Why are we only discussing geo-targeting and public response?

DHS S&T, who is responsible for setting the research and development agenda for CMAS, has a funding mandate to conduct research and development activities focusing on geo-targeting of CMAS alerts and understanding public response to CMAS messages.

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What will be done with my input and ideas?

This discussion will close at 8:00 PM EDT on Friday, March 16, 2012. After this point, the CMAS RDT&E Program will incorporate input from this discussion forum in shaping the CMAS research and development agenda, which will drive investment decisions for CMAS R&D.

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Who are the critical partners in the development of CMAS?

Multiple Commercial Mobile Service Providers, the Federal Communications Commission, FEMA, and DHS S&T are critical partners in developing the CMAS alerting capability.

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How does CMAS work?

Authorized alert originators who have access to the IPAWS-Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN) aggregation gateway will be able to submit alerts for delivery to participating carrier networks. IPAWS-OPEN will facilitate the aggregation of alerts from the first responder community, translating alerts into a standardized format that is optimized for the carriers to broadcast to any CMAS-enabled mobile devices being serviced by their network.

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How is a CMAS alert different from a regular text message?

A key differentiator of the CMAS capability against existing Short Message Service Point-to-Point (SMS-PP), a one-to-one or one-to-few alerting service, is that CMAS uses SMS-Cell Broadcast (SMS-CB), a one-to-many service, which simultaneously delivers messages to multiple recipients in a specified area. By using SMS-CB as the delivery technology service, CMAS avoids the congestion issues currently experienced by traditional SMS-PP alerting services, which directly translates into faster delivery of messages during times of emergency.

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What types of alerts will be sent over CMAS?

CMAS will facilitate the dissemination of three types of alerts: Presidential Alerts, Imminent Threat to life and property Alerts (e.g., weather-related emergencies), and America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alerts.

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Do I have to sign up to receive CMAS alerts on my mobile device?

Customers of participating carriers are automatically signed up to receive all alert types. CMAS allows authorized officials to send emergency alerts to all subscribers with CMAS-enabled devices.

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Can users opt out of CMAS alerts?

You cannot opt-out from receiving Presidential Alerts, but you will be able to opt-out of Imminent Threat and AMBER Alerts by changing the settings on your CMAS-enabled device. Once you opt-out of these two alert types, you will no longer receive those future alerts.

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Will users be billed for CMAS alerts that they receive?

CMAS alerts are free. Consumers do not pay to receive CMAS alerts.

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When will CMAS alerts be active on my phone?

While participation in CMAS is voluntary, participating wireless carriers must begin deployment of CMAS by April 2012. Some carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, plan to offer CMAS in certain areas ahead of schedule. For example, New York City and Washington, D.C., will be deploying CMAS by December 2011.

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How will we know CMAS works?

CMAS partners—including local, state, and Federal originators (including state offices of emergency management), Federal agencies, and carriers—will be conducting a series of tests through the end of December 2011 and throughout 2012. These tests will ensure end-to-end, or start-to-finish, connectivity of IPAWS-OPEN with originators and carriers. Following these tests, S&T will gather all resulting data from each test and use it to further develop subsequent tests to ensure a successful launch of CMAS in April 2012 and beyond.

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Will CMAS track a user’s location or personal data?

No, CMAS will not track location or personal data, as it uses SMS-CB, a broadcast (one-way) technology. This guarantees that IPAWS-OPEN cannot collect any subscriber-related data, including details on who is in the targeted area and/or who has successfully received the emergency alert.

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Are ideas or comments ever removed from the website?

This forum is intended for open discussion about focus areas of the CMAS research agenda. However, ideas or comments that are clearly spam, include sensitive information, or make a threat of violence will be removed.

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