When the next blizzard, flood or emergency strikes, the city of Naperville will have an automatic way to notify the public about safety and response activities.
The city's mass notification system is called Naper Notify and it launched Thursday morning as an enrollment website went live.
"People in Naperville crave information, and this is a system that's going to do exactly what they want," said city council member Robert Fieseler, standing in for Mayor George Pradel at an event announcing the system is ready to accept sign-ups and send alerts.
Naper Notify cost the city $97,000 in a three-year contract and has been in the works since the blizzard in February, 2011, City Manager Doug Krieger said. The city now can easily tell residents, commuters and business people how emergencies will be handled and when problems like snow-covered streets, downed trees on power lines or flooded bridges will be fixed.
Anyone who signs up at napernotify.com automatically will receive emergency alerts about "imminent threats to health, safety and property." The system is equipped to send such alerts 24/7. People also can sign up for any of seven community notification categories, which will be sent no earlier than 6 a.m. and no later than 9 p.m. They include details about brush and leaf collection, utility outages, public safety, neighborhood road and utility work, special events, traffic alerts for major roads and winter operations.
"We want to make sure our residents get information quickly," Fieseler said.
But the free system is open to more than residents, Krieger said. There is no geographic limit, so people who work in Naperville, commute through the city, shop in town or are interested for any other reason all can sign up for the alerts they want to receive.
Those who create accounts to receive notifications must enter at least one form of contact information -- an email address or a cellphone, work phone or home phone number.
Because the service requires people to opt in, the city will be spending roughly $43,500 on marketing, using advertisements in local publications and social media. The funds also will cover the purchase of four tablets city staff members plan to bring to events such as Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation meetings, Ribfest and the Last Fling to allow people to sign up on the spot.
"I think it's (Naper Notify) long overdue. I think the challenge will be getting the residents to sign up because it will have to be done on a voluntary basis," city council member Steve Chirico said. "I think there will be a group of people that resist giving that information and that's going to be a challenge. It will be a great tool to alert people to critical information, emergencies and things they want to know. I hope it succeeds."
Krieger said the city will not release any phone numbers or email addresses entered into Naper Notify, and those who sign up will not get spammed with junk messages.
Naperville resident Heather Baum, who is a board member for the Community Emergency Response Team, said she already is signed up for a similar community alert system in Lisle, and she soon will enroll to receive emergency messages from Naper Notify.
"I just think it will be really beneficial for everyone," Baum said. "It's survival because you never know what kind of emergency is going to happen."