the citizens exactly what to do," Toney said.

One big fan of the Desktop Alert system is Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely. "With so many people using computers extensively, we can now reach them immediately when necessary," he said. "This is a welcome enhancement of our public safety."

As of late March, Lincoln/Lancaster had used the system to provide weather warnings and announce when the federal government raised its homeland security alert level from yellow to orange. With the approach of tornado season, the region now has a communications tool that's much more powerful than its traditional sirens.

"It allows us, in one shot, to get out and communicate massively to warn people, whatever the situation might be," Lowe said.

Contributing Writer Merrill Douglas is a freelance writer based in upstate New York. She specializes in applications of information technology.

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer