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At the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas this week, vendors showed off a Mobile-Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) that uses Mobile DTV handsets.

LG is readying M-EAS-equipped mobile DTV handsets and Harris is finalizing broadcast equipment designs to support a nationwide commercial deployment of M-EAS service, expected by 2014.

The terrestrial broadcast M-EAS project is now delivering trial alerts (that could include video, audio, text, and graphics) to mobile DTV-equipped cellphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, and in-car navigation systems; in order to avoid the potential roadblocks of cellular system congestion during emergencies.

Backwards-compatible with the ATSC A/153 Mobile DTV standard, M-EAS is currently in the first phase of a trial with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; PBS; public broadcasters WGBH in Boston, Vegas PBS and Alabama Public Television; Harris; LG Electronics; and Roundbox.

The M-EAS trial is ongoing and not due to wrap up until the end of May, but early indications reveal the project is on track to achieve its goals. In Las Vegas at the 2012 International CES, a tsunami, tornado, Amber Alert and suspicious device emergency scenarios gave the public the chance to interact with M-EAS-enabled mobile DTV handsets.

The Commercial Mobile Alert System is the current system that wireless carriers are rolling out across the nation in 2012. Most weather alerts will be issued by NOAA’s National Weather Service. Imminent Threat alerts may be issued by state and local officials who have completed a four-step application process.

In September 2009, FEMA begin equipping radio stations to become FEMA PEP stations.

A prototype earthquake early warning system worked as designed when an actual quake gently shook California last Friday. Researchers reported the results Tuesday at the annual meeting of American seismologists.

The idea is to provide advance notice to prepare people for severe shaking. It could come via a cell phone alert or a pop-up on your computer or TV screen.

University of California-Berkeley researcher Richard Allen says the prototype (pdf) worked when a magnitude 3.5 earthquake struck the Santa Cruz Mountains last week.

“The system is actually functioning pretty well in test mode,” Allen says. “At my desktop in Berkeley, I got 25 seconds of warning for that event.”

California’s two reactors sit near seismic faults and tsunamis are a risk, explains Allen.

Colleagues at Central Washington University are studying how to improve the accuracy of the earthquake magnitude estimates. Scientists say the full build out of a public early warning system on the Pacific Coast is not funded and likely years away.

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