The City of Hawthorne will start using a new emergency broadcast system that can alert residents via text, call or email of severe weather, boil water notices and other city events.
Up to now, Hawthorne has relied on word of mouth and posts to social media and its website along with news broadcasts, but Anthony “Rei” Hulse, Hawthorne administrative assistant, said the city realized it needed a better system.
“We’d get a lot of calls throughout the day about the boil water notice or why was the water being shut off,” Hulse said. “There was such a need for this type of service.”
Hulse began searching for a third party provider. During those conversations, one company told him that Alachua County already uses a system called Everbridge and the city can use the county plan at no cost.
Everbridge and Hawthorne are still working through the onboarding process but hope to have lists that Hawthorne residents can sign up for.
Hulse said Everbridge can also notify cell phones within a certain geographic area for major events even if they haven’t submitted information to the database.
Alachua County’s system—called AlertAlachua—lets people sign up for emergency alerts, missing persons, flood warnings, fog warnings, freeze and hard freeze warnings plus tornado, tropical storm and hurricane warnings and watches.
The system also lets people apply for City of Gainesville alerts.
Jen Grice, director of emergency management for Alachua County, said the system is paid for by the Florida Division of Emergency Management, who purchased the program for all counties.
Currently, only the City of Archer and Gainesville use the Everbridge alert system besides the county. Newberry uses a program called SmartNotice and High Springs has an email system for bid notifications, news and job opportunities.
Grice said the notification option puts the information directly into people’s hands, letting them know where to find shelter in case of a hurricane and make decisions.
“Before it’s on social media or the news, that call is first coming in most likely to either our 911 center or one of our public safety agencies,” Grice said.
Once the alert system is ready for Hawthorne, people can sign up online or through a paper form at City Hall. Hulse expects the process to open before January ends.
People can also sign up for Alachua County information via a designated website or by texting “Alachua” to 888777.