Friday, April 03, 2009

The 411 On The 911 Emergency Alert System

Swift911 Comes To Long Island; Residents Encouraged To Sign Up For Emergency Notification

"In the event of an actual emergency...."

Well, probably the government wouldn't be able to tell you about it until it was over, if at all, but on the off chance of a terrorist attack on town hall, or, more likely, a local water main break, municipalities across Long Island are now mobilizing to activate what is known as the Swift911 system, an emergency notification platform designed to notify thousands of people instantly -- by telephone, e-mail, and text message -- in the event of an emergency.

In browsing the web, we found that several Long Island localities have initiated the Swift911 sign-up process (you must opt-in), including the cities of Long Beach and Glen Cove, the village of Freeport, and the Town of Hempstead. [Town of Hempstead residents will be notified by Murraygram! Kidding.]

Other municipalities are coming on board, or may already have set up the Swift911 system. Check with your local government.

Hopefully, the Swift911 notification alert will be utilized only for true emergencies, such as flooding, sewer breaks, and pending natural disasters, and not for more spurious purposes, like when Hempstead Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, wants to use federal stimulus funds to buy corned beef sandwiches and chopped liver from the Coliseum Deli, or when one of the dwarf Nigerian goats escapes its pen at the Levy Preserve.

Then again, we might simply hope that the Swift911 system works at all. Attempts to reach Swift911 at its website ( -- as posted by the municipalities now online -- led us only to a broken link. [Keep trying. In the event of an emergency, you may just happen to get through.]

College campuses have been utilizing Swift911, or similar services, for several years to notify students of emerging situations, from the horror of a suspected gunman on campus, to the more mundane closure of dining halls.

As far as we know, this is the first application of the Swift911 protocol on Long Island.

At press time, inquires to town, village, and cities, and to Swiftreach Networks, Inc., as to the specific costs to municipalities (and, in turn, to taxpayers) to install and maintain Swift911 are pending. [Now this would be an appropriate project for use of federal stimulous money!]

It is always best to be prepared for emergencies, and with an instant notification system in place, residents will have the option to be better informed and, accordingly, better prepared.

Of course, if the Swift911 notifies you of a situation -- say an approaching category 5 hurricane -- that requires you to take one of those designated Evacuation Routes, all we can say is, "If this had been an actual emergency, good luck!"

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