Mayor Richard M. Daley today unveiled the city's new "Notify Chicago" initiative, an enhancement to the current "reverse 911" program that will now give the city the ability to provide anyone in the Master Street Address Guide who signs up for the program with emergency alerts on their cell phones and handheld computers.
"In today's world of ever changing technology, it is critical that public safety agencies do their part to stay in tune with the latest tools available to help keep residents safe," Daley said in a news conference held at the city's 911 Center, 1411 W. Madison St., in which the Mayor reviewed the steps the city has taken in recent months to enhance security.
"Notify Chicago" is the latest addition to "Alert Chicago" - the city's proactive initiative for educating and informing communities on how to protect themselves and their families from harm. It is managed by the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
Daley pointed out that in 1997, only 27% of 911 calls were wireless. Ten years later, more than 58% of 911 calls came from wireless devices.
"Because federal regulations prohibit mass notifications to wireless users, and because we didn't have this software, we were limited in communicating with many people. Now, if residents register for "Notify Chicago" - and that is required by federal rules - we'll be able to send pro-active alerts to them on everything from traffic to weather emergencies to hazardous materials situations," he said.
Daley said that to publicize the program and ensure the city's most vulnerable populations register for "Notify Chicago," city departments will be work with their partners and clients.
To sign up to receive "Notify Chicago" alert messages, residents need to log onto www.notifychicago.org/and create a personal account.
Residents who do not have access to the Internet can sign up at one of Chicago's Public Libraries. All you need is a library card.
Residents can register up to three telephone numbers, including home, work and a cell phone, as well as an email address. They can choose from different types of notifications to receive, such as life safety, fire, weather, disasters and accidents involving utilities or roadways.
For more information on preparing for emergency situations visit www.alertchicago.org and click on the "Notify Chicago" link.
Notify Chicago uses the REVERSE 911® Interactive Community NotificationSystem, a program that uses a patented combination of database and GIS mapping technologies to deliver outbound notifications.
In reporting on the city's preparedness, Daley said that thanks to the efforts of many departments in city government, Chicago remains as safe and prepared as any city can be.
"One of our fundamental responsibilities is to keep Chicago as safe and secure as it can be during these uncertain times and to be prepared to manage emergency situations.
He said the city continues to work closely with the federal government, state and regional agencies to use state-of-the-art technology and strategies to stay ahead of potential threats posed by increasingly sophisticated terrorist groups.
"And many of the steps we have taken in recent months also enhance our ability to keep our neighborhoods safe from the threat of gangs, guns and drugs. We are proud of the fact that, when it comes to emergency preparedness, Chicago has a history of innovation," the mayor said.
Daley pointed to several recent steps taken by the city to improve preparedness. It has:
And in a in a continuing effort to improve emergency coordination, CTA has worked with the Chicago Fire Department to continue to improve interagency coordination and emergency preparedness, Daley said.
In addition, the CTA is investing in infrastructure improvements in its subways to speed evacuation in the event of an emergency. These include brighter subway lighting, the addition of reflective signs to identify emergency exits, escape path lighting, rebuilt stairwells, improved drainage, replacing emergency phones and applying reflective paint to handrails.
Cell phones have been added as an additional communications tool on the Red and Blue Lines, which operate in the subways.
"Keeping our neighborhoods safe and our city secure today is not an easy job," Daley said, "but through the combined efforts of well-trained personnel equipped with the latest technology and supported by an engaged and informed public, we are doing it."