Whenever there is a fire in Los Angeles, IÂ am immediately informed. InÂ fact, whenever the Los Angeles Fire DepartmentÂ (LAFD) responds to a major incident — Â a traffic accident, helicopter rescue,Â a mudslide or whateverÂ –Â I receiveÂ notification. SoÂ why doesÂ LAFD alert a civilian who isÂ 2500 miles away in the middle of New York City? Because I asked.
The LAFDÂ is one of the growing number of governmental authorities that are offering citizens the opportunity to sign up for informational alerts. Because I am researching this topic I have signed up for a number of them around the nationÂ even if it they don’t have practical relevance to me. It is fascinating to see these develop throughout the country as authorities experiment with new communications technology.
If you are interested in signing up for these alerts in your area, you should probably first check the emergency management websites ofÂ your local and state government.Â It isÂ possible that there is not an alert available yet where you are. But it is likely that one is at least being discussed or developed. The LAFD is very much ahead of the curve on this, and most uniformed first responderÂ services do not yet have this service.
If you live in Los Angeles or are interested in seeing this:
Here in New York State, an email/text program, NY Alert, has recently been launched. John Gibb, the Director of New York State’s Emergency Management office, told me in Albany recently that in the first month one million of the possible 19 million users have already signed up. It points out the great interest from the public in receiving emergency information. At present,Â all these systems are in their infancy and have somewhat limited impact, but the potential is huge.
The City of New YorkÂ has just launched its alert system, NotifyNYC, in four pilot communities and will be expanding it soon.
The transportation area is also where public alerts are being used. Many state and localÂ highway systems offer email or text information regarding traffic and construction. Mass transit is anotherÂ interesting example, including theÂ Washington Metro subway system which offers alerts on delayed trains among other incidents.Â
On a national level, the FBI has expanded its email alert system which covers manyÂ of its responsibilities, including terrorist alerts: