Local Politics

Raleigh residents could soon get text message alerts about protests, civil unrest

Posted February 16, 2021 3:23 p.m. EST
Updated February 17, 2021 5:50 p.m. EST

— Raleigh residents could soon register to receive text alerts related to civil unrest or protests that could impact their homes or businesses.

In direct response to events in 2020, the City of Raleigh is working on a 'Downtown Raleigh Notification System' to help provide quick information and alerts to residents and business-owners in downtown.

The issue was raised by some business owners during multiple protests in downtown over the past year.

The system was developed in response to a request from some business owners during multiple protests in downtown over the past year.

They asked for a text communication system that could include information from the police department, including details about the organization protesting, the time of the protests, which streets would be closed and suggestions for businesses and residents to help ensure they remain safe.

A pilot program was implemented, coordinating with the police department and Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA). Urgent information related to protests could be sent out to DRA's database of businesses and residents.

"We've really focused on potentially using our GovDelivery Channel that is managed by our Emergency Management Office and Special Events," said Jim Greene, assistant city manager.

On Tuesday, city council discussed strategies for expanding the Downtown Raleigh Notification System.

Greene presented a four-pronged strategy to improve the GovDelivery Channel.

  1. Promote the system. Put efforts into letting residents and businesses know about how to sign up for alerts. They plan to send a link so people can self-subscribe.
  2. Expand the notifications. Include other permitted events, road closures.
  3. Increase frequency of the notifications. Currently, notifications primarily arrive weekly. They want to be able to send out immediate notifications as needed.
  4. Develop a web page. A web page will allow more detailed information than a simple text. A text could include a link to the website, where people can get more information.

"We think this is going to help improve that communication in the most cost-effective and quickest manner possible," he said.

Councilman Corey Branch suggested, however, that only sending alerts to downtown residents could leave out a significant portion of Raleigh's citizens.

"If something were to happen in another part of the city, we would need to notify those residents and business owners," he said.

Branch said that since GovDelivery is being considered for the alert system, they could think broader that merely downtown – as GovDelivery already serves the entire city.

Currently, there is an existing GovDelivery channel managed by the Office of Emergency Management and Special Events for the purposes of event notifications.  Under this channel, staff sends out a weekly email message to the more than 7,000 that have self-subscribed for this service. 

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