Pa. county gives residents access to first responder emergency notification app

The system will give residents the option to get messages about a number of situations, including severe weather, Amber Alerts and major road closures


By Karen Shuey
Reading Eagle

READING, Pa. — Berks County officials now have a better way to reach residents quickly when disaster strikes.

The department of emergency services has launched a new-and-improved BerksAlert, an emergency notification system geared to increase the speed at which subscribers are alerted to everything, from tornado warnings to water service interruptions.

Jonathan Fritz, director of special projects for emergency services, said the free service has been used for several years, mostly by first responders to spread the word about urgent situations.

But now, he said, the county has made it available to the public.

"We are excited about being able to offer this new tool to all our residents," Fritz said. "We have been working with our local community partners to build this service into something that will help people through potential emergencies."

The system will give residents the option to get messages about a number of situations, including severe weather, Amber Alerts, major road closures and general community news.

Users can determine which hazards they would like to be notified about.

County commissioners Chairman Christian Y. Leinbach encourages those who live and work in Berks to opt into the service.

"This is a really great way to stay informed in the case that a disaster hits," he said. "The best part is that you have the option to choose which notifications matter most to you."

Leinbach said that signing up is quick, easy and secure.

Users pick how messages are received and to which devices, phone numbers and email addresses the notifications are sent.

When individuals subscribe to the system, they will be prompted to enter their home addresses and the addresses of other locations of interest, like where they work, where their children attend school or where their older parents live.

Emergency situations that arise close to those addresses will trigger alerts that will be sent to the registered devices.

"Most of us keep our cellphones with us all the time, so using this technology just makes sense," he said.

By visiting the BerksAlert enrollment page on the department of emergency services website, www.berksdes.com, residents can sign up to get alerts and choose the type of warnings they want to receive.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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