Mississippi emergency responders soon will be able to send text messages via an alert network utilizing FM radio signals built by Global Security Systems, the vendor announced.

The multimillion-dollar system utilizes FM radio subcarriers reserved long ago for paging applications, said Matthew Straeb, GSS executive vice president. Although the system is designed to use only 2 kb/s of bandwidth, the fact that FM radio broadcasters generate reliable signals that are able to penetrate buildings is especially attractive to public safety, he said.

“It's not a lot of bandwidth, but it's point-to-multipoint, and it's a fully addressable system,” Straeb said. “But they don't need a lot of bandwidth to say ‘Go west,’ ‘go East’ or ‘Get out of the building.’”

Expected to be operational in June, the Mississippi alert system will be the first statewide system of its kind, Straeb said. However, with FM receiver chips becoming more commonplace — industry analysts predict 500 million will be shipped in various mobile devices this year — it will not be the last, he said.

“We're launching a nationwide system — we'll have 50 major cities up and running by July,” Straeb said. “We've got four other states looking at this seriously and hope to have something up by hurricane season.”