City to send emergency alerts via text message

CHICAGO Mayor Daley and members of Chicago's police and fire departments announced the improvements. It's part of the city's ongoing effort to ready itself and the people of Chicago in the event of a major emergency.

It's all about keeping up with technology: Chicagoans can now get alerts and emergency instructions on their handheld devices, rather than relying only on radio and television for weather emergencies or terrorist attacks. The new program comes on the same week as the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. It is also National Preparedness Month.

Cameras, a helicopter, mobile command vehicles--since the terrorist attacks seven years ago, the City of Chicago has armed itself with several high-tech tools to improve its preparedness in case of another attack or a major emergency.

"OEMC will continue utilizing technology as a resource to help better protect Chicago, ensuring that we are as safe as any big city can be," said Ray Orozco, OEMC.

City officials announced another tool to help Tuesday. Because close to 60 percent of 9-1-1 calls come from wireless devices, the city is adding software so residents can receive emergency alerts through their cell phones, Blackberries and other handheld devices.

"We call this new initiative Notify Chicago, the latest addition to AlertChicago, our proactive initiative for educating and informing communities on how to protect themselves and their families from harm," said Mayor Daley.

People can sign up for the program and specify a geographical area and the type of emergency alerts they want.

Mayor Daley says this $1 million software upgrade is an enhancement of the city's current reverse 9-1-1 system.

In addition, the city showed off some new police and fire equipment Tuesday. That included a vehicle that is designed to help firefighters in a tunnel rescue and a police marine unit that will protect the waterways.

"A sector scan sonar system aboard the boats has the capability to sweep in depths of the lake to assist units in identifying any suspicious objects, or possibly locating evidence," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department.

While city officials say they are prepared as well as they can be, a national report released Tuesday claims the United States is dangerously vulnerable to a terrorist attack and not enough has been done to protect the home front.

"We have to go on with our lives. We cannot lock this country down. If you do that, then we really have lost what America really stands for," said Mayor Daley.

Mayor Daley believes prevention is oversees in Iraq and Afghanistan; the city's job is to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

The new Notify Chicago program is free, but because the federal communication commission prevents mass alerts through wireless devices, Chicagoans must register for the new program.

To sign up for the city's emergency text message alerts, visit the city's AlertChicago web site.

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