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By Donald Wittkowski

A public alert system called Nixle was recently credited with saving lives in a tornado-ravaged county in Illinois, with warning the residents of a New York town of the dangers of a chemical leak from a freight train and for helping to find a missing boy in Tennessee.

Sea Isle City launched Nixle earlier this year and the police chief is pleased with the initial public response, but he is eager to get even more people to sign up for the alert system.

“I’m happy with where we are, but I know we can do better,” Chief Tom McQuillen said in an interview Friday.

McQuillen noted that not everyone is aware yet of the public notifications, which are delivered in real time through text, email, web and telephone messages.

“It’s as close to real time as we can get,” he said. “It’s a great way to stay informed.”

As of Friday afternoon, there had been a total of 1,561 sign-ups for text messages, 1,014 for email and 756 for home phones since the system was activated in April.

Anyone can sign up for Sea Isle’s notifications, whether they live in town or outside the area. For instance, many of the sign-ups are expected to be people who own vacation homes in the beach resort.

Police Chief Tom McQuillen is pleased with the public’s initial response to the Nixle alert system, but is looking to make even more people aware of it.

Since everyone has the option of signing up for one or more of the text, email and telephone notifications, it is impossible to get an exact count of the number of people who are part of Sea Isle’s Nixle alerts, McQuillen explained.

“One person could be signed up for three notifications,” he said.

Sea Isle’s Police Department will create and publish messages through Nixle, which replaces the old CodeRED public alert system. Nixle will then deliver the information to the public instantly through text, email and phone messages. Notifications can also be accessed online at Nixle’s website at www.nixle.com.

“The goal of this system is to enhance our ability to get information out to the public, whether it is emergencies, or police events or public safety events,” McQuillen said.

There are actually three levels of the Nixle system. The first notifies the public about community-related events that are not emergencies.

The second level includes more serious “advisories” that warn the public about such things as weather forecasts, road construction and police activity.

The third level includes “alerts” about emergencies that are critically important and time sensitive. A hurricane or other powerful storms that are about to hit the barrier island are good examples of the alerts, McQuillen pointed out.

“The hurricane is coming in two days, so get ready and get your stuff ready,” McQuillen said of a hypothetical evacuation order through Nixle.

Nixle alerts will complement Sea Isle’s new flashing road signs that warn motorists of flooding.

Nixle is also the second piece of the city’s Flood Warning System installed earlier this year. The flood alert system notifies the public of flooded streets through blinking road signs.

“When the flood signs are activated, we could push out a message to the people in those flood zones,” McQuillen said.

Now that Nixle is available in Sea Isle, McQuillen is urging anyone who hasn’t signed up yet to do so, particularly for the vital “advisory” and “alert” levels.

“We have the ability to send different types of messages with different levels of severity,” he said.

To register, people may go to https://local.nixle.com/signup/widget/i/17490 or by texting “SEAISLEALERT” to 888-777. You may also consult the Frequently Asked Questions section at www.nixle.com/consumer-faqs/ or go to the Sea Isle City Police Department’s Facebook page.