Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management has added new social media enhancements for residents to receive emergency public information.
JCHSEM has been using Facebook for the past two years. Search for Jefferson County, WV Homeland Security and Emergency Management when on Facebook to reach their site. During non-emergencies, the department posts information about training, upcoming events and links to disaster preparedness information and tips. This is also an area where they post weather watches and warnings as they are received from the National Weather Service.
JCHSEM can now be followed on Twitter as well. Go to twitter.com/signup. This is another tool for the department to get out public information so that residents know what to expect, what's available and any other information available.
Their latest addition in NIXLE. Nixle is a service that allows the department to send public information via text or email, or both. Sign up is free and easy. A person must simply text their zip code to 888777, and text JCHSEM to 888777. A text message in response should appear. Follow the instructions, or for only emails or emails in addition to texts, visit www.nixle.com to sign up Be sure to search for Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management in the list of agencies. One can add five additional zip codes to receive information on other areas, but only if those jurisdictions use Nixle. Weather watches and warnings will be sent using Nixle.
"The use of social media sites is another tool in our toolbox," said Director Barbara Miller. "We know that people have a variety of preferences of how to receive emergency public information. Some prefer TV, some prefer radio, some want to receive it in emails or text messages, so we are complying with the needs of our whole community. We continue to acknowledge the importance of using our traditional media resources, while embracing available technologies. At times when the power is out, the use of SMS is important, as residents can get text messages on their smart phones when they cannot use their radios, TVs or computers."
All of the above services are free, but one must sign up. For assistance in signing up for any of these services, contact Jessica Owens, JCHSEM public information officer, at 304-724-8914.
Another important system that has become available is the Traveler Information System which provides traffic information.
The West Virginia Department of Transportation launched a new information system to enable travelers on West Virginia roads to get real-time traffic and road condition information. There are several ways to access the WV511 system, including phone, computer, mobile app and Twitter feeds.
By dialing 511 from any landline or mobile phone, callers will receive traffic information, road conditions and weather forecasts in addition to transfers to the Department of Tourism and neighboring states' 511 systems. West Virginia 511 also is updated with public safety alerts, including AMBER and Silver alerts.
The WV511.0rg website provides an interactive map with the locations of traffic incidents, roadway construction and weather advisories. The map also allows users to view traffic cameras from around the state in addition to showing the location of electronic roadway signs and their current messages.
The free WV511 Drive Safe mobile app offers drivers audible, hands-free traffic alerts. The app is available for iPhone and Android devises and uses the phone's speaker and GPS location to provide audible travel advisories in the driver's vicinity.