BUCKHANNON – Traffic alerts. Flood watches. Boil-water advisories. Closed roadways.
Whether you’re wondering where you can’t park during a parade or worried severe weather is about to strike, Nixle, the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s new community notification system, will keep you updated on what’s up in Upshur County.
The Upshur DHSEM switched from its previous emergency notification system, WENS, to Nixle on Aug. 1, and DHSEM director Steve Wykoff is encouraging all Upshur County residents to sign up.
As the county’s notification system, Nixle distributes current, up-to-the-minute community advisories and relevant information about local emergency situations. Wykoff said there are three simple ways to sign up:
- Visit www.nixle.com and enter your zip code;
- Text your zip code to 888777 from your cellphone; or
- Visit www.upshurcounty.org and sign up using the Nixle widget on the Upshur DHSEM’s department page.
Residents who signed up for WENS prior to July 1 will automatically be integrated into the Nixle system; however, Wykoff recommends signing up – possibly again – if you’re unsure.
“If they aren’t sure if they’ve signed up with WENS, the best option is to sign up with Nixle, and our system will be able to tell if there’s redundancy in there,” Wykoff said this week. “If they sign up five times because they can’t remember, they’re not going to get five different sets of messages.”
Nixle is an ‘opt-in’ service, meaning you have to take action to sign up for localized advisories. Even cellphone users who don’t sign up for Nixle will likely still receive alerts in more serious, extreme emergency situations via the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s IPAWS, or Integrated Public Alert & Warning System. The nice thing about Nixle, Wykoff explained, is that it incorporates both those more extreme alerts and localized, less serious community advisories.
“Nixle will be used anything from extreme emergencies to weather emergencies to planned power outages, boil-water advisories, community advisories, traffic, road closures – things like that,” Wykoff said.
And Nixle users can create an account on the platform’s website, where they’ll be able to customize their alerts.
“They would be able to control the types of messages they receive, they would be able to set quiet times for themselves if they want to when they wouldn’t receive messages and there are some other options within that Nixle account that you can alter,” he said.
Another benefit of Nixle? It pushes out alerts via email and on social media through the Upshur DHSEM’s Facebook page, but you don’t have to have internet – or even a cellphone – to receive information. You do need a standard landline, though.
“If you don’t have access to the internet, you don’t have access to a cellphone, you can also receive notifications across a standard landline,” Wykoff said.
The DHSEM office made the switch from WENS to Nixle to a variety of ongoing technical issues, including its inability to re-broadcast National Weather Service alerts like Flood Watches and Flood Warnings,” Wykoff said.
“For whatever reason, we’ve just been having significant issues with WENS and it’s just a matter of public and community safety at this point,” he said. “We want something reliable, that we can get the information out to the community when needed, it’s stable, and the Nixle system appears to be the software that was the best all across the board, and there’s a lot we can do with it, too.”
One of those functions is two-way communication between E911 dispatchers at the Upshur County Comm Center and residents. Wykoff said Nixle can be used to receive relevant information from the public on an as-needed basis.
“[Users] can respond back, and there can be a conversation between the dispatcher and that particular individual, similar to a text message conversation,” he explained. “It’s not something we would use on a regular basis, but if somebody is wanted or they put out a BOLO, which is a ‘be-on-the-lookout’ alert, that if you see this person let us know, the person would get that alert. Then if they saw that person or they knew where that person was, for whatever reason – for instance a missing child – they could respond back and say, ‘hey listen, I just saw that kid at ‘such-and-such,’ and it would connect to one of the dispatchers up here and they could carry on that conversation.”
Nixle alerts may also be received via the app; just search for Everbridge, Nixle’s parent company.