Launching the Pilot Program
Former Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg announced the launch of the Notify NYC pilot program in December 2007. The goal of the pilot was to test the effectiveness of quickly delivering localized emergency information to residents via e-mail, texts, and revese 911 alerts in four city districts. Participation in this pilot was open to anyone but the alerts pertained only to Lower Manhattan, the Northeast Bronx, the Rockaways and Southwest Staten Island.
Developed through Intergovernmental Cooperation
Notify NYC was the direct result of a massive collaborative effort between the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications, and the Mayor's Community Affairs Unit. The development of the program also included a number of New York City's other agencies including the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Transportation, Housing Preservation and Development, and the Department of Buildings.
Addressing Public Safety Concerns
New York City residents grew increasingly concerned about public safety following a series of incidents in 2007 including a steam pipe explosion, crane collapses, and tornadoes. The Notify NYC program was created to address those concerns and improve emergency information communications. Mayor Bloomberg released an official statement on the matter:
Participants in the pilot program provided valuable feedback on Notify NYC through surveys, customer service emails and calls to 311.
Phase 1: Expanding the Program
After incorporating feedback from the pilot program, Notify NYC was launched citywide (including residents and vistors of all five boroughs) in May 2009. Residents were able to access the emergency notification service for free after completing a simple online registration form. Users could even specify which alerts they wanted to receive by entering the zip codes of specific locations that interested them.
Emergency Notification Options
There are 13 different types of optional notification topics available to users including: Emergency Alerts, Emergency Parking Suspension, Ferry Disruptions, Local Mass Transit Disruptions, Major Traffic Disruptions, Planned Events, Public Health Notifications, Regional Mass Transit Disruptions, School Notifications, Significant Event Notifications, Weather Emergencies, Waterbody Advisories, and Beach Notifications.
Notify NYC emergency notifications are provided in 13 different languages, an audio format, and American Sign Language to guarantee comprehension across a diverse assortment of users.
Phase 2: Including a Mobile Application
In September 2017, Notify NYC was updated to include the city's first emergency notification mobile application. The Notify NYC app was released for free to be downloaded by the public in both an iOS version and Android version. The mobile app provided real-time updates for emergency alerts including natural disasters and disruption notifications including traffic, public health, and school-related events. Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio praised this mobile development stating:
Location-Data Enabled Notifications
Notify NYC app users have the option to enable location tracking on their device which allows alerts to accurately follow them throughout the city. Users can also include five separate addresses to receive alerts specific to areas where they or their loved ones live, work, or attend school. Furthermore, users can choose to enable the "receive all" mode which gives them access to all emergency notifications regardless of location or topic. These detailed results are then displayed on a user-friendly and interactive map.
An Award-Winning Emergency Management Initiative
Notify NYC has become the official source for public information about emergencies and city services for New York City residents. The Notify NYC staff operate 24 hours a day and 7 days a week at Watch Command where they constantly monitor emergency activity across all five boroughs of New York City. Notify NYC has sent nearly 10,000 emergency notifications and obtained more than half-a-million residential users since the pilot program launched in December 2007. In August 2016, Notify NYC was announced as one of the 11 winners of FEMA's Individual and Community Preparedness Award for being an outstanding inclusive initiative in emergency management.