The New Haven Emergency Alert system, which has been in place since 2008, will undergo serious upgrades later this month — allowing city officials to reach citizens more efficiently than ever before.
Currently, critical information regarding potential hazards to the community, such as dangerous weather, road closure or power outages, is relayed to citizens through text messages, emails and phone calls. The new system, set to go online later this month, will allow for more customization, according to Rick Fontana, deputy director of operations at the city’s Emergency Operations Center.
Residents who sign up will have a say in what types of alerts they receive and how they receive them, and city officials will be able to send tailored information out to specific groups of people or areas in the city.
“It’s important to keep residents informed — particularly under emergency circumstances — and we also want to give residents a choice about the type of information they receive and when they receive it,” New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said in a statement. “So this improved New Haven Alert System provides the suitable upgrade with all those options.”
The revamp comes partially in response to Connecticut’s recent history with bad weather.
“We’ve had more snow emergencies over the past three years than in a long time,” Fontana said.
The city’s need to keep residents updated with post-storm progress during these events underscored the necessity for an emergency contact system, according to Laurence Grotheer, director of communications at the Mayor’s Office.
Now, the system comes into play for smaller snowstorms, school closures and other more routine occurrences.
About 29,000 people receive warnings from the city’s existing emergency alert system. Text messages and emails go out instantaneously, and while infrastructure makes it impossible to reach everyone at once by phone, the system does allow everyone to be notified in under an hour, Fontana said. Seven thousand of the 29,000 have signed up for the alert service, while the other 22,000 have been preregistered using data from New Haven’s white pages.
While this represents roughly 25 percent of the city’s total population, in actuality the coverage is probably much larger. Fontana reasons that because it only takes one person to be alerted per family or residence, the number of people being notified is probably closer to about 100,000 — a large portion of the city’s 130,000 inhabitants. Fontana said he hopes these numbers will continue to grow after the new system is put in place.
As the available sources for information continue to multiply, the city has been forced to engineer new ways to distribute important information to residents, Grotheer said. Everbridge, the company behind the alert system and its upgrade, said in a statement that New Haven will now be able to “specify targeted contact locations, like Yale University, for instance, to distribute messages to specific geographic regions.”
This is possible through the city’s upgrade “including GIS integration to enable map-based message targeting,” according to the Everbridge statement. These new mapping services will allow city officials to notify particular neighborhoods, streets and groups of individuals of alerts pertaining specifically to them.
The alert system will become available to New Haven residents on Sept. 22.