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Clifton Park rolls out texting system

Residents in Clifton Park have another way to get information from their municipality in the event of a disaster or emergency, in the form of an emergency text messaging system that went live on Tuesday, May 19.

According to the New York Association of Towns, it looks like Clifton Park is going to be the first town in New York State to put in a system like this, said Councilman Scott Hughes, who spearheaded the project.

ICOM, the company that built and maintains the town's Web page, was able to put the system in place at no cost to the town.

The system will send enrolled residents e-mails and text messages when an emergency situation occurs on a townwide scale.

An ice storm that slammed southern Saratoga County in December and knocked out power for days was fresh in the minds of town officials. In that emergency, the town made use of the Reverse 911 system to notify residents that locations around town had been opened up as warming shelters.

In the event no power is available, a cell phone text message could be more convenient and effective than a phone call or Web site posting. Plus, an increasing number of people are forgoing a land line entirely in favor of a cell phone.

"So many people treat the cell phone as their primary mode of communication, and it is not as subject to power outages that might affect your computer or TV at home," said Hughes.

Colleges across the nation have adopted text message notification systems. The SUNY system did so in the wake of a deadly shooting at Virginia Tech, where questions were raised as to how effectively the administration can inform students of trouble.

The answer was in the pocket of nearly every on-the-go student: cell phones.

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