'Notify Chicago' to send residents text messages in emergencies

By Dan Mihalopoulos
The Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — If terrorists or natural disasters strike Chicago, anyone with a cell phone would get the latest information from city leaders.

Mayor Richard Daley on Tuesday called for people to sign up for the new "Notify Chicago" program, in which text messages with emergency information will be sent out en masse.

The announcement came a few days before the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and almost two years after the federal government criticized the city in an analysis of emergency communications.

For years, the city has been able to send recorded messages to home phones with information about emergencies. Daley said sending text messages to cell phones and devices such as BlackBerries marked "a great step forward."

Anyone who registers for the new program would receive messages from the city in weather emergencies, terrorist attacks and hazardous material situations, the mayor said.

"It is very critical for public safety agencies do their part to stay in tune with the latest tools to keep the residents safe," he said.

City and suburban residents can sign up, and even out-of-towners with elderly relatives or friends living here are welcome.

In January 2007, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's nationwide assessment of emergency communications showed a lack of progress in Chicago. At the time, Daley defended the ability of the region's police and fire personnel to communicate during a crisis.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Tribune Company

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