The Randolph County Office of Emergency Management will soon roll out a new communications program that will enable officials to convey important information directly to the public.
Jim Wise, director of the OEM, said that starting Jan. 14, the OEM will be utilizing the Nixle Community Information Service. The service is free, Wise said, and will allow OEM official to create and publish/send messages to subscribed residents via text message or email.
The messages will pertain to weather advisories and/or warnings, boil water advisories and other area-relevant information.
"I'm not going to overwhelm them with piddly stuff," Wise said Friday. "But if there's a significant snowfall on the way, I'm probably going to send a message out. If there's a multiple-vehicle accident affecting major roadways, I'm going to let them know."
Starting Jan. 14, any Randolph County resident can visit www.nixle.com and register to receive the information messages.
"It will be more effective and more efficient real-time information, and it makes a difference that they're getting it on a personal level versus through the mass media," Wise said.
"And that's nice because what if they don't have access to the Internet and their cable is out? Well, as long as their cell phone is still working, they'll still be able to get (information via text message).
"It's just another avenue for us to provide information to people on a personal level," Wise added.
The Office of Emergency Management is concentrating on improving countywide communication, having recently established a Facebook page that will be regularly updated in the event of a natural disaster or any other emergency. Subscribe to the OEM's updates by typing "Randolph County Office of Emergency Management" in the search bar at the top of the page and then click 'like.'
Wise said that once the Nixle is up and running, people will be able to log on to www.nixle.com and view the same message that's being sent to cell phones and email addresses - much like they can now see status updates on the OEM's Facebook page.
Although Wise is still in the midst of setting up the program, he touted its multiple benefits, including the fact that will enable out-of-towners to keep an eye on what's happening in their hometown.
"Here's the nice thing about it...say someone lives in Florida for six months out of the year and in Elkins the other six months. They can still receive information about what's going on here, even if they're not living here," he said.
"It's not a cure-all," Wise said of the service, "But the more information we can pump out to people, the better off we'll be."