ATHENS, Tenn. - Want instant weather warnings, traffic advisories and emergency information? There's a text for that.
The city has started using a resident-notification service called Nixle that quickly bursts text messages and e-mails to notify residents of community happenings, event cancellations and urgent news.
Vice Mayor Bo Perkinson said the city's communications subcommittee originally considered printed newsletters and mass e-mails to inform residents, but cost, time and technical drawbacks made members reconsider.
Perkinson called Nixle a "simple, but effective" solution.
To sign up for an account or view updates:
1. Visit local.nixle.com/city/tn/athens.
2. Click "Sign up now!" to create an account.
Athens Parks and Recreation Director Austin Fesmire recommended the free service, Perkinson said.
"After Austin made his initial presentation, I was just waiting for him to give us a price and to try and convince us that it was worth it," he said in a news release. "When he said it was free, I almost could not believe it."
The city tested Nixle over the summer by inviting softball and baseball players to use the system to be notified of weather cancellations, Fesmire said. Since then, city departments have been using the system internally, he said.
The system's e-mail notifications also are capable of providing a map indicating the location of an event and up to four photos, Fesmire said.
Residents won't receive messages, however, unless they sign up for the service, and alerts can be customized, he said.
"If, for instance, a citizen only wanted to receive warnings such as weather issues or Amber alerts, they would simply select those features when creating their account," Fesmire said in a news release.
Residents also can turn off features or unsubscribe at any time, he added.
Fesmire said studies show that people who receive texts will read a message within 20 minutes.
Bob Sevigny, one of the first residents to sign up for the Nixle program, said he likes receiving the instant alerts.
"It's just neat stuff; those who want to be informed will definitely see it as an advantage," he said. "Every community ought to have something like this."
While the service is free to sign up for, phone companies might apply charges for incoming texts or e-mails, so subscribers should check with their service provider, he said.
Those without mobile devices, however, still can take advantage of the notifications by visiting Nixle.com, Fesmire said.