This past weekend, the city of Philadelphia was one of three U.S. cities to play host to Pope Francis on his first trip as pope to America. For the Pennsylvanian city, it was the first time in 36 years that a pope visited the city. Of the many things that changed in the near four decades since the last visit, one technological advancement was used to help coordinate visitors in the city: text messaging.
Prior to the visit, Philadelphia director of emergency management, Samantha Phillips, announced that the city established a SMS service alert system dedicated for the pope's visit to the city.
"If you are planning to attend this historic event, we encourage you to sign up for text alerts for the Pope's visit to get real time information of importance," said Phillips in a statement. "Having peace of mind is part of enjoying the event."
The city already has a text alert system, which notifies residents on various topics, such as severe weather, traffic information, and other emergencies. While that system performs it's job admirably, Phillips and other city officials realized something else was needed for this special occasion.
According to USA Today, over 1 million were in attendance for Francis' Sunday mass on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with even more estimated to have come to the city during his two day visit. For such a short time and such a large amount of people, there as no need to over-burden the main text alert system. Instead, officials established a specific alert program using a short code and keyword to identify people who wanted specific updates on the pope.
This showcases the power of an SMS gateway to keep people informed.