Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Morris County’s shared emergency information network is used by the county Office of Emergency Management and several municipalities to quickly disseminate information to the public about widespread emergencies, and this week, information could include transit delays, flooded roadways, shelter information and more associated with weather.

The network, called MCUrgent, is able to get the word out through Twitter and Facebook, said Carol A. Spencer, of the county’s Information Services Department.

While Facebook requires an account to even see messages, Twitter is a social network that allows posts to be read by anyone. For those who prefer text messages, Twitter’s “Fast Follow” sends tweets directly to a phone without requiring a subscription, Spencer said.

The Morris County Freeholders launched MCUrgent late last year, said Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom. The freeholders have offered the emergency information network to each of the 39 towns in the county as a shared service, Nordstrom said.

Towns that want to participate have authorized personnel trained by county staff.
Once trained, those personnel then post their own emergency information about such incidents as road closings, power outages, rising river levels and emergency shelters in their respective communities on the MCUrgent network, Nordstrom said.

According to Spencer, the county has trained personnel from Denville, Dover, Morris Township, Mt. Olive, Pequannock, Riverdale and Washington Township, with several other towns being scheduled for training in the coming months.

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

MCUrgent posts go directly to Facebook.com/MCUrgent, Twitter.com/MCUrgent, and also appear on the county Web site, MorrisCountyNJ.gov.
Texting “follow mcurgent” to 40404 brings MCUrgent posts right to an individual’s phone.

Citizens with Twitter accounts can participate by using hashtags that identify the town location in their tweets. The preferred list of hashtags may be viewed at
MorrisCountyNJ.gov/mcurgent/mcurgent-hashtags.pdf.

Facebook users can “like” MCUrgent and then comment on county postings. Posts can be “retweeted” or shared.

“The Morris County Freeholders have fully embraced social media,” Nordstrom said. “Using the power of social media, emergency information is spread farther and faster than with any other communications medium.”

Detailed information and downloadable MCUrgent posters may be found at MorrisCountyNJ.gov/mcurgent/socialmedia-mcurgent.asp.

Spencer said the posters could be hung in offices, schools, libraries, municipal buildings and other facilities to better inform the public about the MCUrgent emergency information network.