July 19, 2012
WILLIAMSON — Williamson Fire Chief Jerry Mounts introduced an emergency texting system in place for both the Williamson Fire Department and Williamson Police Department at last night’s meeting of the Williamson City Council.
“The system allows the us to use texting to contact and make people aware of emergency situations when they arise,” Mounts said. He also said that the WFD would send out thunderstorm warnings or, as an example, if residents should shelter in place if a chemical spill were to occur.
He also said that he would share the service with Williamson Chief of Police C.D. Rockel.
Mounts said that the service, offered by Nixle, is free to emergency agencies and will “allow (the WFD and WPD) to interact and become closer to the community.
The chief said that he timed one of his firefighters to log onto the internet, send out a thunderstorm warning and then see how long it took for the text to reach his phone.
“It took 13 seconds,” Mounts said.
He said that he had heard of it a few months ago and kept it in mind, but then read an article in the newspaper about the St. Albans Police Department utilizing a texting service. Mounts said that he called the chief there and discussed the system with him.
One example of the texts working Mounts offered was in California. A man was driving intoxicated with his 3-year-old son in the back. The man parked and was arrested, but the child was left within the car and the man made no mention of him. When the mother noticed her husband and son missing, she called the police who verified that her husband was arrested, but that no child was with him. A text was sent out with descriptions and a person who was signed up to receive those texts reported the car to authorities within an hour, saving the child.
Mounts also said that he has researched the system for potential scams, but that he was unable to find any attached to it.
“If you register, we can’t get to your number. The company we are with doesn’t have access,” Mounts said. “When we sent out a warning today, we received a reply that asked us to please stop, she doesn’t want those messages.
“That’s fine,” Mounts said. “It’s a public service available for everyone.”
To sign up for the emergency texts, send a text message containing “WFDALERTS” to 888777. Standard texting and roaming charges may apply.