Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 19 March 2010 00:00
On Friday, March 12, the Port Washington-Manhasset Office of Emergency Management (PWMOEM) launched its NorthShoreAlert mass notification system (NorthShoreAlert.org), enhancing communication and emergency preparedness across the Port Washington peninsula, which covers all of Port Washington and portions of Manhasset. The launch of this system took place at the Sands Point Village Hall and the system was demonstrated for all attendees through a test call.
Supported by Blackboard Connect, the NorthShoreAlert platform allows officials in all participating villages, the town, and police, fire, and other special districts within the Port Washington Peninsula to directly notify the community in a rapid manner through voice, text, email, and TTY/TDD messages to residents, businesses, and local agencies. The PWMOEM states that these messages can be created very easily and are sent to the community within minutes.
Sands Point Building Commissioner Marc Silbert introduced PWMOEM Commissioner Peter Forman at this March 12 meeting, who provided more information on the PWMOEM and the NorthShoreAlert system. “The PWMOEM is comprised of eight villages, the town of North Hempstead representing the unincorporated areas of Port Washington, and we have a number of affiliated fire, police, and other districts with whom we work. We cover from Northern Boulevard all the way up to the tip of Sands Point, and with approximately 38,000 residents within our operating area,” Forman said.
“The North Shore Alert service is really something unique as to the way it is being deployed here. First of all, all of these entities are coming together,” Forman stated. “Secondly, it allows each of these participating municipalities to rapidly send text, email, phone, and TTY for the hard of hearing to residents and businesses on the peninsula. It can send up to 1,000 calls a minute, as required.”
Commissioner Forman then went on to give different examples of when this system would be used, stating that it can be used for both emergency purposes and other important civil matters. His first example was a case of a missing child. He said that the police can pick a point on the map and draw a quarter mile radius, and within a minute, they can blanket every home in a radius within that circle and send out a notice that this child is missing. This message could include information on what the missing child looks like in order to easily identify him or her. Another example that Forman gave was that they could use this mapping feature to pinpoint coastal homes if there was a possible flooding condition. On the non-emergency side, Forman stated that this system could be used to advise people of important civil matters, such as upcoming elections and street closures.
After providing examples on when this system could be used, Forman gave more information on the NorthShoreAlert.org website, noting that residents can register all of their information on this website in one swoop. “A resident of Baxter Estates is subject to Baxter Estates authority, it’s part of the Town of North Hempstead, it’s part of the Port Washington Police District, it’s part of the Port Washington Fire District, it’s part of the Port Washington Garbage District, and it’s inside the Port Washington Manhasset OEM operating area,” Forman said. “If each of those municipalities and special districts were each to subscribe for this type of service separately, then that resident would have to update their phone numbers and contact information with each and every one of those entities. But through the NorthShoreAlert.org website, a single maintenance of their contact information automatically populates out to all of their respective districts.”
Forman added that it shifts the maintenance of changing contact information from the special district or the municipality to the resident, who knows the information best. “They know when their data is changing; they have the ability to maintain it, and they can add as many contacts as they require,” Forman said. “So if they want to add their adult children, their mom and dad, or they want to get phone calls at work, or they want to get a phone call to their vacation home in Florida, or whatever it might be, anywhere in the United States they can add their contact information, and therefore, they can be alerted wherever they want to be alerted, depending on the type of event.”
A test message was recorded to demonstrate how quickly these messages can be sent. Instantaneously, many of the phones that were already registered with this system starting ringing, displaying the speed of this alert system. Forman stated, “I think that pretty well demonstrates the power of this system, and as I’ve said earlier, the unique attribute here is we have every different special district and municipality that is participating in this, each with their own access to the system, each one controls their own access and makes their own decisions in terms of how and when they use both voice and email messages.” He added, “When you look around the room and look at both the uniformed and non-uniformed people here, it is something special that has been created on the Port Washington peninsula, to bring together all of these disparate fire, police, other special districts, villages, and a town to work together in a cohesive fashion in an otherwise often fragmented political landscape. It is a testament to the leadership from all these different groups, and I thank them for all of their continuing vision and support.”
Senator Craig Johnson thanked Peter Forman for having the vision for this service and carrying it to fruition. “Today, you see a successful culmination of Peter’s idea, and it’s really an idea based on protecting the residents of the Port Washington and Manhasset peninsula,” he said.
Legislator Wayne Wink also thanked Forman and said, “The Port Washington Manhasset OEM is a tremendous step in the right direction to providing not only interconnectivity, but also interactivity of all the different districts we are talking about here. The NorthShoreAlert system is an outstanding opportunity to provide information both proactively and reactively in the case of disaster or other emergencies.”
North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman stated that Commissioner Forman stepped up and brought a lot of people together on a very important issue by creating this system. “The town of North Hempstead covers a lot of territory. We have 31 villages, 11 school districts, over 50 special districts, several authorities, and over 100 governments in the town of North Hempstead,” he said. “We understand that individual communities need support. We need redundancy, we need the ability to communicate with each other and how do we do that when we have an emergency?” Kaiman went on to say, “The goal for the town of North Hempstead is to create the redundancy so we can do what we are supposed to do when it comes to emergencies, and that is to make sure that we can reach out to our communities and do it in a way that makes sense to people so they respond in a rational way and also give people confidence that the leadership is working for them; the leadership is there.”
“What the commissioner and the entire organization here has done is create an opportunity for us to work together, recognizing that we have all sorts of different jurisdictions, knowing that we all have the same goals, and realizing that we have all sorts of investments that we make, whether we are a village, or a town, or a county, and then acknowledging that we can’t do it alone,” Kaiman added. He went on to say, “These are times where districts, villages, towns, counties need to come together and work together. People demand that we consolidate our ideas, not necessarily our entities. We need to consolidate our ideas, we need to share our services, we need to work together, and we need to communicate.”
Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel was also in attendance, and echoed Kaiman’s statements about redundancy, saying that it is essential to have all hands on deck. “When I’m up in Albany, I look for best practices,” Schimel said. “One of the things that I talk about in this area, particularly the Town of North Hempstead and the peninsula of Port Washington, is cooperation. Probably the premier function of government is public safety – keeping our people safe.” Schimel stated that Commissioner Forman tapped into a wealth of the best and the brightest in the area, and by working together and by cooperating, they have created a model for the rest of the state to keep people safe.
In conclusion of the launch and test demonstration of the NorthShoreAlert system, Commissioner Forman stated that it is crucial for everyone in this area to register at the website NorthShoreAlert.org. “We encourage residents to go to NorthShoreAlert.org to register their information, so that when their respective municipalities or special districts need to reach them, their information is in the system,” he said.