This month we are pleased to shine a spotlight on the City of Oak Forest, a valued customer of Rapid Notify for over five years. The City of Oak Forest is a well-established community located about 24 miles southwest of downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. The city is home to over 28,000 residents and more than 450 businesses.
Over the years, Oak Forest has issued numerous Rapid Notify alerts to protect and inform its citizens. In a previous winter season, Oak Forest used the Rapid Notify system to issue an urgent weather alert. The alert advised residents to remain in their homes wherever possible to avoid unsafe driving conditions due to black ice on the roads. This was the first use of the mass notification system for an event that was not technically an “emergency.” However, public safety officials were confident that preventing serious accidents was of utmost importance and warranted public notification.
“Many people who drive early in the morning don’t get a chance to check the morning news for weather conditions before they leave,“ said Deputy Chief David DeMarco. “This makes them especially vulnerable to black ice conditions which can’t be detected by drivers on the road.”
The success of an alert is sometimes measured by what does NOT happen. In this instance, no major accidents occurred. City officials were satisfied that the severe weather alert was an important and successful use of the notification system.
Recently, the Rapid Notify system was used by Oak Forest to issue an urgent missing person alert. When a local senior citizen was reported missing, the Oak Forest Police Department decided to activate the Rapid Notify mass notification system. With the aid of geographic targeting, the emergency notification system auto-dialed over 2,700 phone calls to local residents. Within 30 minutes, the 72-year old woman with Alzheimer’s disease was reported found safe in nearby Midlothian.
“We have been very impressed with the capabilities of the Rapid Notify system,” added DeMarco. “The results have been outstanding for both emergency and non-emergency situations.”
Now the City of Oak Forest will be one of the first to implement the new Rapid Notify community self-registration module. With as many as 25% of households using cell phones instead of landline phones, the need for self-registration is greater than ever. Accurate contact information is an essential part of municipal and government public safety programs.
“If we only have a home phone number, or no number at all, then that person is not going to get an important message,” said DeMarco.
The self-registration portal is specifically designed to help organizations improve the quality and quantity of information used for mass notification. In addition, the portal ensures that mass communications are privacy compliant by offering opt-in and opt-out capability. Self-registrants complete a short online form with their contact information, indicate their preferences for notification, and select a secure login enabling them to return and update contact details as often as needed. The portal quickly plots address locations on a map and presents them to the registrant to verify or reposition the pin to the exact location of the address. Confirmed addresses are geo-coded into the Rapid Notify mapping system, which enables organizations to target emergency and mass communications to individuals in specific physical locations.
“We are committed to helping businesses and institutions effectively communicate life-saving information to its citizens,” said Steve Sipe, president of Rapid Notify. “Our new self-registration feature is part of our continuing efforts to provide efficient public safety communications and a more connected environment for all types of organizations.”