or all of it. "We can address only portions of the city or people can sign up for only portions of the alert." Knapp said.

The alert also disburses notices from the Centers for Disease Control and State Department travel advisories, since many of Medina's residents travel the world. The alerts include tips for avoiding identity theft and other crimes.

Residents can e-mail the police department to sign up for all or selective alerts. The department also is developing a Web site that will allow city residents to sign up for alerts online instead of e-mailing the department.

Medina uses the system to keep citizens abreast of the federal government's various states of alert and what to do in each case. "We have to figure out how to talk to our citizens about what they may be hearing in terms of [homeland security warnings]," Knapp said. "We've molded this into a comprehensive emergency management plan, which post-9-11, has become an important component of city government."

Knapp credits the program for opening a communication line that didn't previously exist between the department and residents. "We get tenfold the number of e-mails we used to get. People will thank us or bring something to our attention that they would not have before."

Knapp is not worried about being inundated with responses, even though he has just one person to maintain the database. "I think communication happens to be one of the primary components of community policing," he said. "So whatever resources it takes, this is a good investment."

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor