Messaging System Links Texas Residents and Officials During Emergencies

Mass notification system also provides information about public health issues, disaster recovery and missing children.

by / May 6, 2010
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Photo: Hurricane Ike struck in 2008, damaging or destroying every house on this street, which runs along Galveston Bay. Courtesy of Greg Henshall/FEMA.

The Alvin, Texas, public library was to be the voting site for a city election on April 28, but a two-alarm fire earlier in the morning forced officials to move voting to City Hall. The transition went smoothly, thanks to the city's community notification system that was already in place.

"The particular area where the early voting was talking place suffered smoke damage, so we had to move the early voting to City Hall," said Capt. Terry Lucas, the city's emergency management coordinator. The fire and resulting movement of voting demonstrated one of many uses for the notification system.

Alvin has had the system, known as Connect-CTY from Blackboard Connect, in place for two and a half years. The first major use of the system came as Hurricane Ike approached. During the response to the hurricane, Lucas sent 50 messages warning residents of the storm's approach and informing them of the city's preparations. Once Ike made landfall, Lucas sent messages letting residents know where and when they could pick up emergency supplies and meet with FEMA representatives.

In addition to notifications during emergencies, the city uses the system to inform residents of public hearings, street closures, city events and missing children.

Read more about Alvin's mass notification system at Emergency Management's website.