The needler in the haystack.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Time to move Plainfield to Nixle?


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While everyone is drawing lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, is it time for Plainfield to consider Nixle?

Everyone has concluded that improving communications with residents and businesses has to be a top priority (as the Courier noted in an editorial this week, see
here), but what to do when the channels of communication we take for granted are knocked out?

Websites (such as the city's) are little help when you have no internet access. Same for reverse-911 phone call systems when the phones are out of service.


Suddenly, low technology efforts like mobilizing volunteers to drop flyers by hand, taping notices in public places, and riding through neighborhoods broadcasting on bullhorns make eminent good sense.


But there is one more technological solution that should be considered: Nixle.

 
Nixle (see more here) is a mass notification system that is free to local police departments and other agencies. It differs from more traditional reverse-911 services in that it broadcasts text messages to cellphone users who have signed up for the service. Nixle messages can also be received via email and web pages.

Hurricane Sandy hit us on a Monday evening, knocking out everything. By Wednesday, I had cellphone service back completely. As of last night, I spoke with people at the Plainfield Symphony concert who were still waiting to have their Verizon internet service restored.

A sign of the penetration of cellphones is the recent news that AT&T is getting out of the landline phone business. The cellphone system has become so ubiquitous that keeping it up and running is a high priority, and it clearly has been easier to restore than hardwired landline systems with downed wires.

Over 5,000 jurisdictions in the US offer the service; among towns using the service in our area are --

  • Hoboken (see here);
  • Newark (see here);
  • Piscataway (see here);
  • Morristown (see here);
  • Raritan Township (see here);
  • Cranford (see here); and
  • South Brunswick (see here).
Why not Plainfield?


-- Dan Damon [follow]


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