Monday, October 1, 2007

Update: An Emergency Text Message System for Roosevelt Island

According to Mr. Michael Moreo, Director of Information Technology & Emergency Management Coordinator for the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the current e-mail advisory system can be used in principle as a emergency text system. But there are limitations as to how well it would work.

Currently as noted in my prior post RIOC offers via e-mail the ability to receive advisories regarding various island issues of concern. Therefore it can be hoped that if there was an emergency this system would additionally broadcast the relevant information needed to be disseminated. Currently the RIOC Emergency Preparedness web page states this system is not for emergencies.

Without getting too technical the current system works off of the standard email format known as SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). Text messaging over mobile phones utilize an SMS (Short Message Service) delivery method format. To receive an email on your phone your cell phone provider would have to provide an SMT based email address that links to your phone. An example for a Verizon Wireless subscriber would be your 10 Digit Number @ (

A major caveat to the effectiveness of using cell phones in this capacity is that depending on the carrier and the plan subscribed to the resident / subscriber may only receive a truncated version of the advisory. RIOC would need to tailor their e-mail advisories to state the focus of the email concisely and succinctly in the opening few words so that "truncated" recipients would know to follow up by a secondary method (via actual phone call to RIOC or review of their emails) to receive the entire advisory. In truth most of RIOC's advisories are single issue advisories which start off with a topic header. As long as they continue to do so this could work quite effectively.

Granted we all hope that we never receive an emergency broadcast but it may be worthwhile to subscribe to such advisories on your cell phone, as noted above, even if it means using up a few "text calls" each month to standard non life threatening notices just to ensure if there is an advisory issued of great importance you will get it on your cell phone. The address to subscribe to RIOC's current advisory system, as described currently for non-emergencies, is

I am hoping that based on my emails to RIOC that they will formally look at the current system and determine that they will change the notation on their emergency preparedness page to note that this system may be used in case of an emergency as one additional tool in their arsenal to protect us. I'd like to thank Michael Moreo and Stephen Shane for answering my inquiries quickly and in such detail.

The following e-mail came into me just after posting the above text and I thought it worthy to post in full. As Mr. Moreo states no one method should be relied upon in case of an emergency, especially since technology can easily be disrupted in times of disaster or emergencies, and RIOC will certainly use its best efforts to do what they can to keep us informed.

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Moreo
Sent: Monday, October 01, 2007 4:37 PM
Subject: RE: Utilization of the Current Email Advisory System

The intent of the advisory page on our website, the email notification system and the information telephone hotline is to announce scheduled service advisories that affect island services. However, we have found through past experience that we have a certain level of capability to broadcast on short notice if reliable information is provided to us and all systems are operational.

When a situation arises, notifications are made to the appropriate personnel by our Public Safety Department and notifications can be made either from our island operating areas or remotely.

Although every effort would be made to notify the public using technology, I would not recommend to people to become complacent and assume all emergency advisories will be broadcast using web, email and/or telephone, as these technologies might be down.

The best answer I can give you is [RIOC] would make best effort to advise using web, email and telephone, but still remember that seeking the news via television or radio may still be your best bet in getting information you need at the time of a true emergency.

Michael W. Moreo
Emergency Management Coordinator
Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation

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