In an emergency, will your cellphone give you updated information?
Whether it’s a flood, a powerful snow storm, a power outage, a road closure or any other type of manmade or natural event of note, a growing number of New Jersey counties are reaching out to their local residents, giving them emergency updates and bulletins in a number of ways.
Joe Krisza, the head of the Middlesex County Department of Public Safety and Health, says when the state Office of Emergency Management or the National Weather Service provides an update about a severe or significant situation, information is sent to residents through the county website and social media sites.
He says his office will also reach out to municipalities to directly share the information with their local emergency management offices.
He points out when a situation arises in a specific town, the municipality will put out information by using their own website, social media and variable message board signs, such as a road closure due to paving or some other project.
Krisza notes when important information has to be shared, “we utilize radio, we utilize television, we utilize our website and we utilize social media to provide that information out to our residents.”
In Mercer County, officials use a telephone outreach system called Swift911 to inform residents of major emergencies.
A county spokeswoman said Mercer tries “not to inundate the residents of the county with messages of a non-emergent nature” because if too many messages are sent people will ignore them.
Mercer does give residents the option of having messages delivered to their cell phones and email addresses.
One of the counties taking the lead on information sharing is Somerset.
Freeholder Board Director Patrick Scaglione said Somerset gives residents the option to get information about 50 different topics, including emergency notifications, flooding, recycling, special events and golf course conditions by going to the county website and signing up for what they want.
“They can find out about county road and bridge closings, especially early in the morning before they commute to work, disaster recovery, delays due to weather,” he said.
“They can also subscribe to emergency alerts, where they get alerts either through texting or emails, so they can get information about things like the recent nor’easters we suffered through.”
He pointed out Somerset offers multiple options to get information because “we live in a different world now than when I was a kid, people are much more connected, they’re much more on the run and they have limited time to access information, so we have to be more proactive in trying to get the message out to them.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com