Police in a Tennessee community are now sending text alerts

Text alert systems have become increasingly popular in recent years, with many launching on either the state, county or municipality level, but one community in Tennessee has bucked that trend.

Last week, police in Oak Ridge, Tennessee launched a dedicated text alert system for residents, one that only sends out notifications on police advisories. 

The Oak Ridge Police Department's new community safety notification system allows public safety officials "to more proactively inform the public in real time," Police Chief James Akagi said in a statement. Alerts will include information on ongoing police emergencies and can be limited based on geographic areas relevant for the alerts. To sign up, residents can text their zip code to a short code or go online to the department's website. 

One unique aspect of this system over others is that it encourages two way communication between police and residents. Included is a feature called Text A Tip which allows citizens to text information about relevant cases or emergencies directly to police officials. 

What is unusual about this instance is that these systems are usually procured and implemented across both wide geographic areas as well as incident types. Text alert features in other communities also include notifications for things like severe weather, traffic and power outages while also incorporating the ability for residents to respond with patient location or medical information in the case of a medical emergency.

Oak Ridge's new system, while certainly being helpful, are missing these key features, which would help it become more robust and informative. 

The SMS service alert infrastructure used in Oak Ridge is also used on a national level at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, The National Blue Alert Network and the National Lay Enforcement Telecommunications System.