Dec 10 2009

From a Lot to Many More

The use of an emergency notification service to send alerts to citizens made obvious sense for Chester County, Pa., because it already was using Cooper Notification's Roam Secure Alert Network to instantly send warnings to the county's emergency workers and first responders.

There were minimal changes for the county and literally no training needed to begin using it for citizen notifications, says Robert Lee, a communications technician for the Technical Support Division of the Chester Department of Emergency Services. Chester joined forces with four other southeastern Pennsylvania counties and Gloucester County, N.J., to launch the citizen notification service ReadyNotifyPA. Subscribers receive text message alerts through their e-mail, cell phones, personal digital assistants or pagers.

Chester County had realized the benefits of being able to contact employees at 58 fire, rescue and emergency services organizations and 48 law enforcement organizations simultaneously, says Patty Mains, assistant director for external liaison and public information. Now, it uses the tool to let subscribers know when a road is closed or a flood creates potential hazards, for instance.

The goal of ReadyNotifyPA is to support emergency notifications across a large region and population in the wake of a terrorist attack or other major disaster. But for the counties participating, the ability to use it for smaller-scale, public-safety purposes makes the investment pay off immediately.