Reporters and county officials watched in anticipation as Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald slowly typed his name and phone number onto a giant computer screen in his office Thursday morning.
After creating an account, a phone rang in the middle of the table, and a look of relief permeated Fitzgerald’s face.
That was the first notification from the newly unveiled Allegheny Alerts system.
The free, non-emergency notification system gives county residents the opportunity to keep up to date with community affairs without having to scour the web. For now, users can only sign up to get alerts from the Parks Department and the Kane Regional Centers.
But Fitzgerald said the county hopes to expand the system soon to other departments.
“For example, the Health Department, you can get notifications for example, when flu shots might be available,” Fitzgerald said of the possibly. “Or with Public Works, you can get notification when certain roads are going to be detoured.”
Users can create an account on the website, www.alleghenycounty.us/alerts, and register to receive alerts about specific county parks or any of the nine Kane Regional Centers.
There is no limit to how many different alert specifications users can sign up for, and the notifications will be sent periodically, depending on the situation; and can be delivered in a multitude of formats.
“They can have it sent to their home, they can have it sent to their workplace, by email, by phone, by their mobile communication, their smartphone, or they can get a text,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald ran a live demonstration of the service, and a notification arrived quickly. It alerted the room of an upcoming community cleanup sponsored by a Kane Center.
To encourage people to register, the county plans to install kiosks at parks in the near future, Fitzgerald said.
County Council President John DeFazio said the system helps people who are looking for info, but don’t know where to find it.
“It’s a good program, and as time goes in, it’s going to get better,” DeFazio said. “Once everybody catches on, I think it’s going to be beneficial to a lot of people and I think it’s a win-win situation for the county.”