The number of people who learn of large news stories and disasters via mobile phone is growing each year. Whether through text message, Twitter, Facebook, or a news website or app, mobile phones have become, for a growing majority of people, a conduit of important information. It makes sense then that the government plans to put a service in place to alert  citizens of national emergencies via cell phone. 

After five years of planning, the system was unveiled in NYC on Tuesday by Mayor Bloomberg. Called the Personal Localized Alerting Network, or PLAN, the system will send emergency messages to cell phones in the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other serious threats. 

Here's where it gets tricky for us. You do not need to sign up for the service. Phones will need a "special chip" in order to get the messages. According to the announcement, starting next year all new phones will come with the chip. We're sure privacy concerns will arise and will hopefully be answered by federal officials. 

The system will launch in New York City and Washington, D.C. by the end of the year. 

[via NY 1