Columbia public safety agencies to offer alerts through

Sunday, November 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Columbia public safety agencies are in the early stages of joining, a real-time information Web site that would allow communication directly with residents through a variety of media devices.

The Columbia Police Department, Columbia Fire Department, Public Works Department, Public Safety Joint Communications and various health services departments will eventually use the online service.

Information that would not traditionally be considered for a news release or  emergencies that warrant an immediate notification would be rapidly communicated to residents of Columbia either on the site, through e-mail or via text messages for those who have signed up for the service.

Columbia Police Officer Jessie Haden said that unlike other social networking sites like Twitter, Nixle allows graphics to accompany the information, such as maps of crime scenes or accidents. The information is also recorded in a database where it can be easily retrieved.

City spokeswoman Toni Messina said Nixle would likely not be available before the end of the year. She said the city needs to create policies regarding the use of the service.

Nixle is a free service for both the government and members of the community. Residents can sign up for the service on and will begin receiving notifications once city services start using it.

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