Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Morris County is developing a shared emergency information network that will be used by the county and offered to its municipalities to quickly disseminate information to the public in the event of an emergency.

The network, called MCUrgent, will get the word out through Twitter and Facebook.

While Facebook requires an account, Twitter is a social network that provides subscription-free access. For those who prefer text messages, Twitter’s new “Fast Follow” sends tweets directly to a phone without requiring a subscription.

Carol Spencer, of the county’s Information Services Department, and Scott Digiralomo, director of the county’s Department of Law and Public Safety, unveiled the network before the Morris County Freeholders on Sept. 7.

They said MCUrgent will initially be used to issue emergency messages by the county Office of Emergency Management, and will eventually be offered to each of the 39 towns in the county as a shared service. Several towns have already expressed an interest participating in the test phase of the shared emergency information network, Spencer told the freeholders.

Once trained, authorized personnel in each town could then post their own emergency information about such incidents as road closings, power outages, rising river levels and emergency shelters in their respective communities, said Digiralomo.

Those messages and situation updates could be immediately accessed from a phone, a desktop or laptop computer by a citizen via Twitter, Facebook or text message, Spencer said.

Citizens can contribute by posting messages on Twitter using hashtags set up by the county, which will identify each municipality. The list of hashtags may be viewed at http://MorrisCountyNJ.gov/freeholders/PDFs/mcurgent-hashtags.pdf. Postings can be “retweeted” or shared by those who receive them.

According to Digiralomo, MCUrgent is currently up and running for emergency information postings from the Morris County Office of Emergency Management at www.Twitter.com/MCUrgent; at www.Facebook.com/MCUrgent; at www.MCUrgent.org; and via txt message by texting follow MCUrgent to 40404.

A feed is also available on the county government’s homepage at
www.MorrisCountyNJ.gov.