HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) - Whenever there’s an emergency, authorities want you to know what’s going on. Erie County emergency managers hope you’ll sign up for a new type of emergency alert.
New York Alert will make sure you’re the first to know about dangerous situations. Experts at Buffalo Computer Graphics in Hamburg helped create the system. “We can actually do quite a lot,” Rafal Malkowski explained. “We can contact you via email [or] via text message. We can ask you questions to find out whether you’re okay.”
Think of it as a cell broadcasting network. “The ultimate goal is to support emergency management, so they can get their messages out in times of emergency,” Chris Zak said.
News 4’s Jordan Williams signed up for the system with his cell phone and was receiving alerts in a matter of minutes.
Gregory Butcher, Deputy Commissioner of Erie County Emergency Services said, “This platform, I don’t want to say no brainer, but it was a no brainer. How could we not use something that had this many platforms for notification to the public that was provided to us for free by the state?”
The system works two ways. You can sign up for a alerts for a specific area, like your neighborhood. Or if there’s a critical life-safety situation, emergency managers can use the federal government’s “cellular mass alerting system” to blast out an alert to all the cell phones near a particular tower.
Developers say it could prove critical if there’s an emergency at the Erie County Fair. Even people who aren’t registered could receive those alerts. “The whole point of the system is to contact the user wherever they are,” Malkowski explained.
News 4 has told you about cities and villages — including Buffalo and Hamburg — that use the “Code Red” system. Code Red uses similar technology but comes at an additional cost because it involves a third party provider.
Butcher questioned, “Why would we spend taxpayer money to purchase something that we already get?”
Some emergency managers tell News 4 they like to have local control. They want immediate access and the ability to send alerts themselves. New York Alert is administered at the county level. “Every emergency manager, every chief of police, every public official within this county has the ability to contact us and put out a notification,” Butcher noted.
New York Alert works anywhere in the state. If you live in a city or town that’s also using separate code red system, emergency managers encourage you to sign up for that notification system as well.
Sign up New York Alert: Click here
Sign up for Code Red: City of Buffalo
Sign up for Code Red: Town and Village of Hamburg