Thursday, July 9, 2009
Sheriff alerts sent via texting, e-mails
ORANGE CITY-Technology is working to the advantage of the Sioux County’s Sheriff Department.
With the recent hype of social networking and messaging Web sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, sheriff Dan Altena had been looking for a way to communicate important messages countywide.
“There are a lot of good things out there,” Altena said.
While he was looking into the possibility of joining Facebook or Twitter, information on another alternative, called Nixle, came forth.
“It’s a secured Web site, there is no cost to emergency providers like law enforcement, and it would do everything we were looking at doing,” Altena said. “We decided to go with that company, and so far, everything has worked out really well.”
And, already, the service provided by Nixle has proven to be beneficial.
“We saw a traffic situation last week because of the high winds,” Altena said. “We put out a notice that we were closing a portion of the road, and one of the local radio stations had registered, so they received the information and announced it over the radio. It was a real help and benefit to us. Already, stuff like that has made it a success for us.”
By using the service, messages concerning weather alerts, traffic problems, road closures and criminal investigation information, will be sent throughout Sioux County
“We’re going to use it a lot for different situations,” Altena said. “We’re also going to use it for things like crime prevention programs, as an announcement form to let people know to attend the event on a particular date at this location. There is a never-ending supply of reasons to use it.”
While Altena said members from other communities can register for the service, they need to put down a Sioux County address.
“We had somebody that works in Rock Valley, but lives in Sheldon, so they put down their work address,” Altena said.
The service extends to a 20-mile radius surrounding the sheriff’s department in Orange City and includes the entire county.
In addition, the sheriff’s department has the ability to put messages out to a quarter of a mile radius or to the entire county, depending on how big of an area the alert will affect.
Users who register via the Nixle Web site, www.nixle.com, are permitted to provide multiple addresses, which is something Altena encourages.
“There is an advantage to putting down a couple different locations,” he said. “I live in Sioux Center, and if I’m away from the office and put a Nixle message out to a one-mile radius, I would get that, but I also put down our Orange City location, so if I put one out in Orange City, I’ll get that, too.”
Users can select if they would like to receive alerts by e-mail, text message or by logging onto the Nixle Web site. Selecting all three also is an option.
“Almost everybody carries a cell phone,” Altena said. “Some people don’t have a text message plan, but really, the messages we send out are fairly important. It costs very little money to receive a text, so it’s probably worth it. If you don’t want to do that, you can shut that particular part off and just receive e-mails.”
But whatever the way of receiving the Nixle alerts, Altena hopes those who take advantage of the service see a direct benefit.
“Being in a law enforcement agency, our No. 1 goal is to keep the public safe by keeping them more informed as quickly as possible, but it could also potentially be a benefit for the law enforcement side,” Altena said. “If we’re looking for a suspect and put out a description of the vehicle, there are more eyes out there than just the officers.”
Since Altena has a phone that allows for him to send and receive text messages and e-mails, he can easily administer a message no matter where he is.
“It appears to us to be a great program to us at this point,” Altena said.
This article appeared in the May 30, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.