Friday, September 28, 2007

Would an Emergency Text Message System Serve Any Purpose on Roosevelt Island?

The use of their emergency text message system on the campus of St. John’s University proved useful in informing quickly that community to an event that concerned them all, the presence of a gunman, and that all students and faculty should stay where they were and await further instructions. Could such a system serve any benefit to an essentially segregated community as Roosevelt Island?

Certainly the major concern to all residents of the island is our safety as it is for any community. With only three access points to the island an event which cuts one or more of these points is something that many residents if not all I would think want to know about. In the past year the major issue of concern to many islanders is what would happen and what would islanders do if there was a major storm that severely affected our ability to stay safely on the island or our ability to leave it if necessary and how we would be able to leave.

Today’s weather technology seems advanced enough to predict harsh weather with enough time that all residents could be notified or become aware of a pending event but I believe Mother Nature has shown us (Katrina) that even existing system become overwhelmed and despite best efforts warning systems can fail. The past week's events including the bridge being struck open twice is another factor that could fail again at the wrong time.

Currently the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation utilizes five methods of community information disbursal that I know of: (1) flyers, (2) email advisories for those signed up to receive them, (3) electronic messages on bus marquis, (4) posting of advisories on their website and (5) human contact via their offices when they are open or recorded phone messages. If I have missed another method please let me know.

It would appear that several of these methods are only useful if you are either on the island, at your computer (or have a blackberry or equivalent able to receive emails), or have heard or seen something that would prompt you to call RIOC if you are on or off the island.

I am unsure if the current email advisories can be sent to portable phones as text messages. If they can this should be advertised as a greater number of individuals might sign up to receive them. I am sending an inquiry into RIOC now regarding this question. If the e-mail system cannot be used be used as a text system perhaps this option should be investigated. I would bet residents would be appreciative of the investigation.


  1. Check out It allows for fast "info blasts" to be sent via multiple options, like email, text messaging, cell phone, home phone

  2. Oops...I meant that It allows "info blasts" to be sent out to (not via) many diff modes of communication (email, text msging, cell phone, etc.) Within seconds