Next time you feel your phone buzz or chirp with an incoming text message, it could be the law. Don't worry - they're not after you. They're trying to help.
On March 1, the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office launched a new alert system to communicate quickly with citizens via their electronic devices.
Called "Nixle", the service functions like 911 in reverse, said deputy emergency manager Paul Hollar. It can be used to inform people of potential threats - like wildfire evacuations, road closures, gas leaks, weather advisories and missing child alerts - as well as safety tips and benign community updates. Notices are delivered by email and/or with a cellphone text message.
The alerts are one-way traffic; replying to them only results in an error message.
Hollar said the MCSO did in-house tests among its deputies and the system worked like a charm.
Only subscribed individuals will receive messages, which are free of charge. While he knew some people would be reluctant to give their personal contact information to an unfamiliar company, Hollar is hoping for widespread participation from the public. The sheriff's office cannot view the list of subscribers, he said, and Nixle keeps the information on a secured server and never sells it to third parties. The service can be cancelled at any time.
"Really, there are no drawbacks," Hollar said.
Sheriff Dennis Spruell is throwing his support behind the idea.
"The Montezuma County Sheriff's Office is dedicated to the protection of all we serve. By adding a system of notification in an emergency situation we hope to keep our community informed and protected," he said in a prepared statement.
To register for the alerts, visit www.montezumasheriff.org or nixle.com.
Those with questions or concerns can contact Spruell at 565-8452.