Atlantic to add E-Notify texting service for emergency responders


March 7th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic City Council, Wednesday, approved the use of an “E-Notify” text message notification system for firefighters and emergency responders. While some firefighters in the community already receive text messages about fires and other emergencies on a test basis, the remainder are expected to be integrated into the system within a couple of days, according to Atlantic Fire Chief Mark McNees. The text message system would supplement, and NOT replace the pagers carried by all firefighters and emergency responders.

Cass County 911 Coordinator Rob Koppert appeared before the Council to explain the how the system works, its drawbacks and advantages. He says the current computer system at the Cass County Communications Center is capable of automatically pushing text messages out to those who need to receive them. Koppert said one area of concern is the amount of time it takes for responders to actually get the message.

He said his research shows when the E-Notify system was used by some fire departments in the eastern U-S, firefighters weren’t their pagers anymore and relied only on their cell phones for text message alerts. The result was that some missed their text messages and failed to respond to fires or other emergency calls. Koppert said the same thing could happen here, if firefighters rely only on their cell phones for notifications.

He says there is a time delay factor in getting the message to firefighters. Koppert says 98-percent of the time, the system worked just fine. Sometimes, he said, the messages were received within a couple of minutes, sometimes hours, and in some instances, not at all. He said because of the liability issue, they don’t want firefighters to rely strictly on text messages.

He said the system is great as a “Secondary means” of communication, and it serves to provide a written description of the address of an incident. The agreement approved by the Atlantic City Council, and some other City Councils within the County, stipulates that the 9-1-1 Center is not responsible for any liability, should the fire department elect not to carry their pagers. He said most of the fire departments within the County are going to carry their pagers in accordance with the agreement.