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City's electronic alert system is now online
Fredericksburg launches electronic alert system


Date published: 7/21/2010

BY EMILY BATTLE

Fredericksburg is the latest area locality to launch a system for sending alerts about everything from severe weather to school closings directly to residents' e-mail or mobile devices.

Area residents can now go to fredericksburgalert.com to sign up for a wide variety of messages to be sent to e-mail accounts, cell phones with texting capability and pagers, from various departments in City Hall.

The service is free, and is paid for with a $40,000 grant of federal Homeland Security funds distributed through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

The city used that money to purchase the alert system from a company called Cooper Industries.

Stafford, King George and Caroline counties and the University of Mary Washington already offer these services through the same provider.

Spotsylvania County is preparing to launch a similar service. Fire and Rescue Chief Chris Eudailey said the Board of Supervisors could vote to award a contract for the services in the next two months, and the county would begin working on implementation after that.

While many localities use the system mostly for severe weather and emergency alerts, Fredericksburg officials are hoping to broaden its scope to allow city residents to choose alert feeds for a wide array of city services.

Battalion Chief Charles Sterne, who has managed the project from the city fire department, said the capabilities will grow as more users sign up for the alerts, and as city departments discover new ways that they can be used to disperse information.

He and Fire Chief Eddie Allen suggested that people who sign up today should check back on a monthly basis to see if new feeds that interest them are available.

At this point, residents can choose from a vast menu of alert feeds.

FREDericksburg Regional Transit offers information on schedule and route changes.

Parks and Recreation offers feeds on registration, pool and parks information and sports and event cancellations.

The city schools offer feeds with school-specific news, as well as a general school closings feed.

The public works department has established feeds relating to fire hydrant flushing, construction projects, snow removal and other services.

The city can distribute major emergency alerts to anyone who is signed up for the system, no matter what feeds they have checked, Sterne said.


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Area residents can now sign up for the following electronic alert services:

Fredericksburg: fredericksburgalert.com Stafford County: staffordalert.com King George County: kgalert.com Caroline County: carolinealert.com University of Mary Washington: alert.umw.edu

Users should be aware of what charges they will incur for incoming text messages before signing up a cell phone.