In the last week, the Camillus Police Department instantly notified residents directly about a gas leak and closed roads, warned them about an e-mail scam and slippery road conditions, asked for help identifying a larceny suspect, sent out a reminder about child safety restraints and Tuesday's Camillus Town Board meeting, and passed along a travel advisory from the county executive.
How? It's called Nixle, a web-based program that provides police departments and governments with a direct line to residents, keeping them updated on everything from robbery suspects to icy road conditions to upcoming municipal meetings via e-mail or text messages.
And Camillus is one of the first law enforcement agencies in the country to begin using the service.
Chief Tom Winn said he first heard about the program while researching ways to better communicate with residents.
"One of the department's goals for 2010 was to provide residents and business owners with more information about what's going on in Camillus," Winn said.
With Nixle, the department is already seeing that goal realized, and for free. The program is available at no cost to police departments and governments, and Winn noted that for the officers, who already relay information to the media and emergency services, adding Nixle to the routine is just one more step.
But because it is a new system for the department, Winn said feedback from residents is important.
"We want to hear from people, good or bad," he said.
Share your opinion with Winn and the department through camilluspolice.com or by e-mailing Winn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not a 911 replacement
Winn emphasized that Nixle would not replace the reverse 911 system that the department uses to contact residents in the event of an emergency.
"Any situation where we would have used the reverse 911, we will still use it," Winn said. The department may also choose to use Nixle in those situations, but the primary concern will continue to be notifying residents directly with reverse 911.
Since the department went live with Nixle on Jan. 15, they've sent out more than 11 advisories to members, as well as notices of a less urgent nature, like the board meeting reminder.
To sign up with Nixle and begin receiving alerts from the Camillus Police Department and other organizations, visit nixle.com or camilluspolice.com. Membership is free.