'Flash Mobs' Use Tech to Gather for Fun

For most people, the television is still the primary source for important local news alerts, such as storm warnings and missing child or so-called "Amber Alerts." But consumer electronics maker Thomson RCA has devised a new way to keep folks on top of emergency alert broadcasts — even if the TV isn't on a local news station.

This summer, the company will introduce a new line of TVs with a system called Alert Guard. The setup includes a separate radio tuner that locks onto the broadcast frequencies of the National Weather Radio network.

The NWR service, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, traditionally broadcast only weather alerts such as impending hurricanes or tornadoes. But the broadcast system, which covers about 97 percent of the United States, has been expanded to include vital bulletins provided by other federal, state and local authorities.

"We've turned from what started out to be a weather system to now really an all-hazards system that is able to alert people," says Bruce Schaffer of Thomson RCA.

And the Alert Guard TV works automatically. Once buyers have installed the TV in their homes, the TV will seek out and continuously monitor the closest NWR station.

Users can then set the TV to notify them of an alert with an audible alarm or with on-screen text. Additionally, tiny lights — green for no news, yellow for "advisories," orange for "watches," and red for immediate "warnings" — on the front of the set keep the users aware of breaking news, even if the TV is off.

"If you're watching cable, if you're watching satellite, if you're watching a DVD or playing a video game, this device will still alert you," says Schaffer.

The cost is about $50 extra than you would pay for a regular TV.

— Michael Barr, ABCNEWS

Cybershake is produced for ABCNEWS Radio by Andrea J. Smith.

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