Earlier this month the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security unveiled Vermont Alert (http://vtalert.gov). Vermont Alert is a system by which the user decides what information they would like or need and how they get it.
VTAlert.gov is a free service for users. It's hosted and maintained by the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) and is available to all emergency response agencies in the state in order to allow for localized alerts.
This new tool keeps users informed of pending disasters, weather conditions, public health notifications, and countless other alerts that could affect themselves or their loved ones. They can receive a phone call at home or on their cell; they can get a text message; they can get an e-mail; be alerted on social media; or chose to interrupt their kids' games on the X-Box to receive an emergency message.
Local emergency response organizations like police, fire, and rescue will have the ability to send messages to their local area, and since the system prompts users to enter their location those messages will go directly to residents in the area. For example, if a town needs to evacuate a neighborhood police and fire can prepare and send a message to people in town to help spread the word. The system is also geo-coded so alerts can be pushed out to a geographic area if there is an emergency situation that requires immediate public notification.
"We've seen over the past couple of years the value of speedy and accurate information as emergency situations develop," Gov. Peter Shumlin recently said. "This new system will give Vermonters a head start in preparing for storms or other hazardous conditions."
There are also day-to-day applications for VTAlert.gov; you can sign up for traffic alerts or weather notifications. If there is a traffic tie-up on your route to work, or adverse weather conditions for travel you will know about it before you head out.
Some other examples of how VTAlert.gov can be used:
-- Large structure fire in a downtown. The local fire department can write and distribute a press release through VT Alert. Can contact the public directly with an evacuation notice (phone, text, or e-mail), issue a travel alert for motorists to avoid the area, and alert the public of any public health hazards from smoke.
-- A wildfire is burning. Nearby towns can issue evacuation orders and notify residents in the affected area directly (via phone, text, or e-mail). Press releases can be written on and distributed through Vermont Alert and the National Weather Service can issue an Air Quality warning if the fire warrants such a notification.
-- An accident on Interstate-91 is blocking the road. The State Police can write and distribute a press release regarding the accident. he Agency of Transportation can issue a travel advisory and outline alternate routes. VTrans can then notify the public when the road has re-opened.
-- A tropical storm is occurring in Vermont. In the state Emergency Operations Center DEMHS and partners can: Prepare and release Emergency Alert System messages; prepare and distribute press releases and special notifications regarding conditions; post state road closures; post public health alerts; post locations of emergency shelters; and automatically populate social media with information above
The National Weather Service can issue storm Watches and Warnings and local communities can Issue evacuation warnings; post local road closures; and post public health alerts.
In the aftermath of a storm the state and federal government can post notifications about disaster aid to individuals and communities.
We have worked long and hard to get Vermont Alert up and running. It is modeled after New York Alert, which was designed by the state of New York and has been in operation since 2006. Vermont paid $58,000 for the system and to tailor it for Vermont's specific needs.
Sign up for an account today by visiting www.vtalert.gov.
Joe Flynn is the Director of the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.