Bernards Township is launching its Swift 911 Emergency Notification System, for which residents are being urged to sign up, that is designed to during an emergency give the township an "efficient and reliable" way to communicate with its residents, staff and businesses.
"Swift 911’s emergency notification solutions will enable Bernards Township Emergency Management to quickly alert citizens via voice, text, fax, email and CAP/IPAWS of life threatening emergencies, giving instructions and vital information to protect you, your family and your property," said an announcement issued through the township clerk's office.
Residents are being strongly encouraged to register for the Bernards Township Swift 911 Emergency Notifications. To do so, those who wish to receive notifications should log onto the Bernards Township website at www.bernards.org, and click the box on the home page entitled “Swift 911 Notification" to reach the sign-up page.
The Swiftreach system that the township already has implemented is much more enhanced than the basic reverse phone calls that were used in the past, said Bernards Township Police Lt. Michael Shimsky, who also is the township's Office of Emergency Management coordinator.
Shimsky told the Bernards Township Committee last week that the system allows thousands of phone calls to go out quickly.
"With Swiftreach, we have mined phone company data for residents and businesses in town and also have an application for citizens to sign up and furnish their contact information and method (e-mail, text, cell phone, etc.) of receiving the information," Shimsky said in an email on Monday.
The system is operational, but the township is encouraging residents to sign up in order to continue building a database of contact information, Shimsky said on Monday.
No notifications yet
He said no notifications had gone out as of this Monday, and the township's emergency envision the system "to be utilized only in severe emergencies/incidents where information/instructions needs to be disseminated urgently and in a finite time period."
Examples would be a missing persons alert, evacuation orders, instructions where to get food and water, and similar information, he said. Last week, Shimsky said such a system could have been used during last year's Sandy storm, to send out updates about the many roads around the township blocked by trees or downed wires.
Mayor Carolyn Gaziano said an advantage of the system is that residents won’t rely on third party information during an emergency: "Get it directly from Bernards Township Emergency Management,” she said.
She said the system is a way for residents to have correct information for their community delivered directly the way they select to have it delivered; by phone, text, email, or social media. “Adding additional phone numbers or email addresses is easy once you register for the notifications," Gaziano added.
Shimsky said the system also asks users to geo-code their address within the system, which is self explanatory when residents sign up, so that the township has the ability to make notifications to particular geographic areas, and not the whole township, if warranted.
The new system is part of an overhaul of the township's emergency management capabilities that has been a priority for this year. A renovation of the township courtroom and main meeting room to set it up as a potential command center and to add extra outlets for residents to charge devices "is making very good progress," Shimsky said on Monday.
Projected completion is still late November, he said. In the meantime, the municipal meetings that had usually been held in the municipal courtroom — including those by Township Committee and Planning Board — are being held in the lower level of the Bernards Township Library at 32 S. Maple Ave. in Basking Ridge.
A project to install a larger generator capable of powering the entire municipal building also is underway, Shimsky said. However, he added the unit has not been installed yet.