On Monday morning, cell phones across New York City buzzed urgently and flashed with an alert.
"WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male,” the alert said. “See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen."
New Yorkers are familiar with the alerts, which are most often issued when severe weather hits the city, bringing citizens’ attention to tornado warnings and flash floods.
The system, known as Notify NYC, started in December 2007 as a pilot program in four areas under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a tech-savvy media mogul. According the Notify NYC website, it went citywide in May 2009.
“The City wanted a way to update New Yorkers quickly with official information after several incidents occurred in 2007, such as: tornadoes, a steam pipe explosion, and crane collapses,” said a statement on the website. “Since its inception, Notify NYC has sent out thousands of notifications about local emergencies.”
The notifications are sent by the city’s Office of Emergency Management, which operates a Watch Command team that monitors emergency activity throughout the city 24/7.
According to the Notify NYC website, “Watch Command monitors radio, computer, and 911 dispatches from the NYPD and FDNY. Additionally, Watch Command monitors information feeds from regional emergency operations centers, the FAA, MTA, the Port Authority and many other federal, state, and local agencies for incidents that affect the city. When an emergency has the potential to affect a significant number of New Yorkers, Watch Command uses Notify NYC to inform the public.”
Citizens can sign up for the service either on the NYC website or by calling 311, which is the city’s information and resolution hotline. Notify NYC also is touted when New Yorkers use other functionality on the city’s website, www.NYC.gov, such as when they seek alerts for the byzantine alternate-side parking schedule. Users can select what type of alerts to receive as well as by geographic area.
The alerts also are available by Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/notifynyc. or by following @NotifyNYC.