The needler in the haystack.

Monday, August 7, 2017

City's emergency phone messaging system glitch needs a fix


Pushing emergency alerts and public service announcements toresidents' cellphones is a great idea,
but execution could be improved.


Last Friday, as I was about to go out to dinner with friends, I noticed a call from the city's emergency notification system (908-251-9137) on my voicemails.

An initial portion of the message was missing; all I got was a reminder that anyone found "there" after dusk would be subject to a citation for trespassing.
Wherever "there" was, it must have been specified in the lost portion of the message.

The "mystery" was solved today when I noticed a brief item on TAPinto (see here) advising residents to be mindful of the rules at the new Skate Park.

This was not the first time this very useful service has failed to deliver the goods. I have previously mentioned the problem to city officials, who said several phone calls had been received about the issue. I suggested that a quick fix would be to preface the message with some introductory language (For instance: "Hello. This is a community service message from the City of Plainfield..") which would not be missed if it wasn't broadcast.

But the system should really just work: What is recorded should be what is heard by the resident. All of it.

It may not be so important for this particular message, but when it's an emergency, or a missing child, or a confused older person who has wandered away, getting the whole message out on the first try is crucial.

Many of the surrounding communities routinely use Nixle for such notices (especially road work and traffic alerts), but Plainfield's use of the Nixle service seems to be sporadic, which is a shame.

The city should be praised for using these methods to communicate with the community in a timely manner, but the usefulness of a message is directly related to its completeness.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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