Phone messaging system can quickly reach thousands with important information, should improve communication
By Jonathan E. Coleman
In an effort to increase the efficiency of communication with Harrisburg residents, officials have installed a new mass notification call service capable of calling thousands of residents and delivering a recorded message from town staff.
The Connect-CTY service, which was tested across the Harrisburg market last week, will help officials get important messages to the public, said Town Administrator Joel Davis.
“Informing residents immediately and accurately in time-sensitive situations will help prevent the spread of misinformation, prevent injuries, streamline our recovery and improve current service levels,” Davis said. “We will also utilize Connect-CTY for communication such as Town events and announcements.”
One such announcement, where the Connect-CTY system could have proven helpful occurred recently, said councilman Steve Sciascia.
The town shut off water service to more than 300 customers for failing to pay water bills and late fees. Under the town policy, customers only get one notification of an overdue payment, Sciascia said. With a service like the Connect-CTY, delinquent customers could be notified for a second time by phone. This would help avoid a lot of confusion, he said.
Sciascia said the service could be used to notify the public of any number of things like criminal activity, road closures or recreational opportunities.
Call lists can also be customized to include only specific addresses or neighborhoods.
Davis said the cost of the service is based on the number of households served and includes unlimited messages. The service will cost $4,397 for the fiscal year starting July 1, he said.
The system also provides the town with important feedback.
“After it does the call, it will tell us who answered, how many were answering machines, how many were busy and how many were bad numbers,” Davis said, adding that last week’s test call reached 80 percent of the numbers tested.
“I just want to make sure we communicate with the public as much as we can and this is just one more tool to do that.”
The service requires no additional hardware, and can be used from any Internet-enabled computer.
Residential and business phone numbers that are publically available in Harrisburg are automatically included in the system.
Residents can register additional numbers and e-mail addresses by visiting the Town’s Web site, http://www.harrisburgnc.org or calling 704-455-
• Contact reporter Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected].