New York City is conducting a test on Sprint's network today of the wireless emergency alerts system, with six different alert messages being sent to phones located around the five boroughs. The provider is working closely with a number of government agencies, including FEMA, the FCC, and New York City's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and plans for all 2012 Sprint phone to have the hardware and software necessary to receive these alerts (a dozen phones are currently capable of receiving alerts, including the HTC Evo 3D and the Samsung Galaxy S II). Sprint's not the only carrier working to implement this system, though — the OEM notes that this system will work across T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon as well.

Ultimately, the goal is for FEMA to be able to broadcast free text message alerts in three different categories: presidential alerts, imminent threats to life and property, and AMBER alerts. Some examples of situations in which this system might be used include missing child alerts, severe weather warnings, and for threatening situations in public places like airports or malls. While we hope to never receive one of these messages, a more modern system than the old TV-based emergency broadcast system is probably long overdue.

Image credit: solo_antonio (Flickr)