The Watchung Police Department has joined the social media revolution.
Spurred by suggestions in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to improve communications with residents in times of emergencies, the police department will now be posting on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter and implementing the Nixle network in Watchung.
Police Chief Timothy Wenzel will be preparing a press release about the new channels of communication, Council President Debra Joren said at Thursday’s Borough Council meeting, adding the department may also use the reverse 911 system to notify residents.
Wenzel decided to adopt the social media strategies after he attended a meeting on the Nixle program in South Brunswick earlier this month.
While most residents are familiar with Facebook and Twitter, the free Nixle service utilizes either text messages or emails.
The chief recommended the borough use the Nixle system at a council meetiung last month.
Nixle is already used by several Somerset County police departments, Residents who want to receive the information can choose which method they want to use.
Residents can also choose to receive information from more than one town.
For example, Nixle can send out a message if a road is closed and other information during an emergency.
Hillsborough has been using the service for four years, Wenzel told the council. He said he talked to Chief Paul Kaminsky who “absolutely loves it.”
In Hillsborough, dispatchers immediately transmit a message when they receive information such as a road closed because of an accident.
For example, during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Far Hills police sent Nixle messages about the availability of emergency aid, including water supply and charging capability, and once power crews arrived, the location of where they were working.
Other Somerset County towns using Nixle include Branchburg, Bridgewater, Bound Brook and Raritan.
In the wake of Sandy, Mayor Gerald Mobus created committees to assess the borough’s response to the storm. One of those committees will study ways to improve communication between the borough and residents.
Nixle describes itself as a nationwide “community information service” that connects residents to their police department, school system and government. Only authenticated agencies and community organizations can securely publish information through the Nixle system.
There are four types of Nixle messages: alerts (many would refer to this as an emergency type alert), advisories (less urgent need-to-know information), community Information (day-to-day neighborhood to community-level information), traffic (very localized traffic information).
There is no charge for residents who register for the NIxle service.