John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Does Newtown Need a Mobile-Enabled Emergency Notification System?

Does Newtown Need a Mobile-Enabled Emergency Notification System?

Recently, there have been several emergency or near emergency situations in Newtown Township. On March 7, 2018, during a snow emergency power failure, the Township Building was open as a “warming center,” but before any township residents were made aware of this, power was restored; on October 24, 2018, Swamp Road and Route 413 experienced significant traffic delays due to an accident, but many residents were unaware of the problem.

UPDATE (15 Nov 2018): Obviously today's storm was a challenge for Township residents. According to the Township Manager, Buck and Swamp Roads were closed and caused an overload of traffic on 413, the Bypass, and Eagle Road. The township had difficulty all afternoon even getting trucks out to efficiently address the accumulation of snow/ice. Almost all major roads in the Township were inhibited in one way or another throughout the day by volume and stuck vehicles. Again, residents were not adequately notified until it was too late.

The list goes on. And although the Newtown Police Department and/or the Township Manager were able to post information about some of these events on Twitter and Facebook or via email to homeowner association management companies (with the hope that it would passed along to HOAs and residents), these notices reached a limited number of residents, reached them too late, or never reached them at all.

Not only is there a limited ability for the Newtown Police and Administration Departments to send out emergency and other notices to residents, there is limited ability of residents to easily communicate information to the Township and be assured that a record is kept of each contact.

The Newtown Technology Committee has been investigating services that can solve these problems by sending notices to residents about active shooters, traffic incidents, community events, severe weather alerts, missing persons, etc., via text, mobile apps, email, voice, Twitter, and Facebook. One such system is NIXLE, which is used by over 8,000 communities across the country. For more information download the NIXLE data sheet.

Such a service would cost Newtown Township about $5,500 per year (plus $500 in the first year for implementation and training). The service is FREE to residents who sign up (opt-in) to use it. Is it worth it?

Listen to This Presentation

This is an edited recording of a presentation to the Newtown Technology Committee made by a Nixle sales representative. It covers all the major features of the system.

Recently, I spoke with the Chief of a Regional Police Department that uses NIXLE. According to him, "Nixle has been working very well for us. We purchased this service and permit the three municipalities in the region to also post notices/alerts through our system.  All officers can post an alert. The system is very easy to use, especially the mobile application. I have already used NIXLE's mobile app from my car while traveling to the scene of an event."

Citizens and residents from surrounding municipalities can opt in to receive mobile, email or hard line phone notifications. His department created information cards and officers hand them out at community events to make people aware of the system.

"I would say that Nixle is a benefit and cost appropriate," said the Chief.

UPDATE: Supervisor Mack made a motion at the November 28, 2018, BOS Definition meeting to allocate $6,000 in the 2019 Budget to implement the Nixle system. The motion was tabled due to a lack of sufficient details about the product for the Supervisors to make an informed decision. The matter is likely to be brought up again in 2019 for consideration to implement the system in 2020. At that time there will be a new Chief of Police and there will be an opportunity for the Technology Committee to present its case before the Board.
Another Option: Savvy Citizen
View this post on Instagram

Jeralyn Brown explained the benefits of the Savvy Citizen alert system to me at the Bucks County Association of Township Officials annual meeting at the Northampton Country Club. One benefit is the price: $299 per month!

A post shared by John Mack Newtown Supervisor (@johnmacknewtown) on

Your Input Is Still Important

Should Newtown purchase such a system to instantly send out Emergency Alerts, Advisories (less urgent need-to-know information), Community Information (day-to-day neighborhood to community-level information), Traffic (very localized traffic information), etc? 

please take a short survey to let me know if you would opt-in to such a service if it were available to Newtown Township and Wrightstown residents (both communities are serviced by the Newtown Township Police Department) as well as Newtown Borough residents.

No identifying information is collected via this survey unless you opt-in to provide such information for purposes of follow-up by subscribing to John Mack's email newsletter.

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township approved survey. Its purpose is solely to inform John Mack – a Newtown Supervisor – of the public’s opinion regarding this issue.

Posted on 13 Nov 2018, 10:40 - Category: Survey Results

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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