Following a recent tsunami false alarm, many Sewardites began needlessly evacuating, but those who had signed up for the city’s Nixle service all received a text message to stand down. Though everyone in Seward at the time received the tsunami warning, only those who had opted in to Nixle could receive direct communications that the warning did not apply to Seward. Since the tsunami warnings are not generated by the city, the city has no control over who receives them, and this is one of many reasons officials recommend all citizens sign up for Nixle alerts.
Though it was initially because of tsunami false alarms that Seward first established an alert service through Nixle, the notifications are not limited to emergency preparedness. The city makes extensive use of the system for everything from law enforcement and power outages to bear alerts and new positive coronavirus cases.
“We had a standoff at Bayside Apartments earlier this year,” said Patrol Sergeant Karl Schaefermeyer. “It allowed us to let people know, ‘Hey, avoid this area during this time,’ and let them know again when it was clear, just to kind of keep people from wandering into a situation they didn’t want to be a part of.”
Not only can people opt in to receive text messages, they can also elect to be notified via voice message, email, Facebook or Twitter. The landline voice message service allows officials to target their messages selectively.
“Using the landline information, we can actually geographically locate where we want to send out a voice call,” Schaefermeyer said. “If it is something in the middle of the night, maybe in the Forest Acres area, we can just send out, just to the Forest Acres area, ‘Hey, watch out for this.’ So we don’t have to wake the entire town up, notifying them.”
The benefits are not limited to Seward residents either. Next year, as summer draws closer, the city plans to alert visitors and vacationers to the service as well.
“We have a lot of people coming into town that aren’t members of our Facebook groups, aren’t part of the police Facebook page, aren’t in any way associated with the local social media, so when they’re down camping, and we get a tsunami warning or something that requires them to evacuate, they’re kind of left clueless as to who to contact, who to listen to,” Schaefermeyer said. “When people come into town, they can sign up for our local information notices, and then they can cancel it when they leave, when it’s no longer applicable to them.”
The same is recommended for Seward residents when traveling.
“Any time you’re looking to travel somewhere, it would be a good idea just to sign up for that zip code to receive alerts while you’re there,” Schaeffermeyer said, “and when you leave, just un-sign up for it.”
Nixle can also be used as a tool to keep abreast of developments in communities where loved ones reside.
“I’ve talked to a lot of residents here that are signed up for Soldotna and Kenai, and several other people that have family members around the state sign up for where their kids are, or where their parents are, so they can kind of keep an eye on those communities as well,” said Acting Police Chief Alan Nickell. “This program gives us a lot of reach.”
The simplest way to sign up for Nixle is to text the city zip code, 99664, to the number 888-777. Doing so will opt the user in for all agencies that cover the 99664 zip code, which currently includes the state troopers, the borough, and the city – including the police department. The user can customize which agencies they wish to see alerts from by creating an account at Nixle.com. Users can also customize the manner in which alerts are delivered, whether through email, text or voice calls.
Anyone with questions about the Nixle program is invited to call Patrol Sergeant Karl Schaefermeyer at (907) 224-3338.