Local fire chiefs praise updated Nixle alerts

By Martin Graham - mgraham@recordherald.com

Fire chiefs from throughout Fayette County — who gathered for their regular meeting Wednesday — praised the recent Nixle alert system update and encouraged the community to sign up.

According to Nixle.com, launched in 2007, Nixle provides an open communication forum that connects public safety with the municipalities, schools, businesses and communities they serve. Nixle enables real-time, two-way communication through text, email, voice messages, social media, and the Nixle mobile app. Organizations use Nixle for critical situations such as severe weather events, evacuations, safety hazards, security threats, facility problems, employee notifications, and IT/Telecom disruptions.

The Nixle notification system is relied on by over 8,000 agencies, fire and police departments, schools, hospitals and is now available in a business version.

“We are really interested in pushing Nixle this month since September is National Preparedness Month,” Melissa Havens, director of the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency, said during the fire chiefs’ meeting Wednesday evening. “We just went with the upgrade where residents can receive home phone calls. You have to go to Nixle.com and sign in, but you can adjust if you want the phone calls. This system was just implemented!”

For the fire chiefs present, Nixle has been an invaluable tool in helping to get the word out about severe issues in the community. Currently, Washington Fire Department Chief Tom Youtz said the tornado sirens have a bit of a misconception about their intended use. He said they have received reports from the community that the current tornado sirens “did not wake them while in their homes.”

“There is a bit of misconception about the tornado sirens, those are for people outside already to let them know to find shelter indoors,” Youtz said. “It isn’t meant to wake people up in their homes. Also we found, if someone is home during the day and you hear that tornado siren go off, what do you do? You don’t stay in your home, you walk outside looking to see what is going on. So basically these sirens have been working in the opposite of what it should do for you. I think this system is much better, because first off who doesn’t have a cell phone? And if you don’t, most others have a land line. Nixle will tell a person the important stuff they need to know. Nixle allows us to tell everyone what is going on at once and to make sure everyone remains safe.”

Havens said another big flaw with the tornado sirens is it doesn’t allow them to notify the public of other potential threats. Since the tornado sirens are meant specifically for bad weather, this leaves a gap in the system in the event of another catastrophe the community should be informed of. Whether it is as simple as a culvert replacement that will block a major roadway or something much more severe, if the community needs to know Nixle will help to inform them.

“Nixle is the best thing for us,” Wayne Township Fire Department Chief Chris Wysong said. “Our tornado siren is not able to be set off remotely, our control box went out maybe two years ago. That is a $3,000 piece of equipment, so we decided not to replace it because that $3,000 from our small budget only impacted a three-quarter of a mile area in a 47-square-mile township. So now with this Nixle we are better off, especially for our older couples in our township that have land-lines. I got the phone call for the first time last night, and I can already tell it is going to help our township a lot.”

Wysong and Youtz weren’t the only two to praise Nixle Wednesday, as both Ralph Stegbauer — Concord-Green Fire Department fire chief — and Ron Huff — BPM Joint Fire District fire chief — both expressed pleasure with the program, citing its usefulness with farmers.

For more information about Nixle visit its website at www.nixle.com or call Melissa Havens at (740) 335-8264.

Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.


By Martin Graham