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Calling all Citizens: A Growing Number of Municipalities are Using "Reverse 911" to Alert Residents in the Event of an Emergency

NCJ Number
Governing Volume: 15 Issue: 9 Dated: July 2002 Pages: 44-45
Elizabeth Daigneau
John Martin
Date Published
July 2002
2 pages
This article reports on the fact that a growing number of municipalities are using "reverse 911" to alert residents in the event of an emergency and discusses some pros and cons of this system.
While the concept of calling 911 is a familiar concept, Reverse 911 (R911) is less well known. R911 is a way for the police to contact the community, by a simple digital click, in the event of an emergency or serious situation, more quickly and over a larger area than if the officers had to go door to door to notify residents. Since September 11 this system has been utilized by more municipalities than ever before, though it has been in use since 1996 in DuPage County, Illinois. Some drawbacks to R911 are that too-frequent use of the telephone may result in a backlash from people resenting their phones ringing at all hours, particularly with the prevalence of telemarketing. Also, residents with unlisted numbers or residents with new numbers, for example, might never receive a call warning of a tornado or an alert of a sexual predator moving into their neighborhood (as is the law in Florida). It was found to be a very useful system in Arlington, Virginia, in the event of the attack on the Pentagon, enabling paging of off-duty officers telling them to check in. In conclusion, it is noted that old-fashioned warning sirens, battery operated radios, and door-to-door contact by the police are still needed, and the media is still necessary to get the information out, but R911 can reach thousands in minutes and save time in an emergency situation.