The Dukes County advisory board last week signed off on funding for a new emergency notification system aimed at summer visitors with smart phones.
County emergency management director Chuck Cotnoir requested the use of county funds to put in place the Ping4 notification system as a way to help Island visitors receive emergency information. Ping4 is a smart phone application that allows a user to receive localized notifications. It is used by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service, and can be programmed to send out county-specific information.
Island residents are part of the Code Red notification system, which sends to phones. But those who visit the Island have no way of receiving the notifications.
“Residents routinely get notified, but we have no way to inform the visitor,” Mr. Cotnoir said. “And we have no way to give them instructions regarding finding Red Cross shelters [and] where to get food and fuel.”
The advisory board, which oversees the county budget, voted unanimously to approve $4,000 to be spent on the Ping4 system, with $2,500 for the initial contract and $1,500 for advertising, with the understanding that information would be collected on how many people had actually signed up. Funding will come from the current budget out of the economic development budget line.
“We thought this was a service to the tourists and a good way of using these funds that are [marked] for that purpose,” county manager Martina Thornton said. Mr. Cotnoir said he wanted to make sure early summer was covered by the Ping4 system. He said he would work with the airport, local hotels and the Vineyard Transit Authority to post signs informing visitors of Ping4.
In other business, county treasurer Noreen Mavro-Flanders received approval to use money from the computer capital expenses to fund a cloud-based system as opposed to an on-site server for running the department’s accounting software. The department typically buys a new server every three to four years. The cloud system costs $5,000, compared to $12,000 budgeted for purchasing a new server. Ms. Mavro-Flanders said the remaining funds would be used to buy new computers for the treasurer’s office capable of managing the cloud.