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July 30, 2009
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Start-up provides free, secure communications technology for first responders

Police officers, firefighters, and other first responders are flocking to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to alert citizens of everything from traffic accidents to terrorist threats. But how can these municipal agencies be sure that they are reaching their communities? And how can the residents trust that the information received actually comes from their local agencies?

A start-up called Nixle is helping first responders solve the problem of sending secure, verified information to citizens across the nation. According to their website, Nixle’s Municipal Wire is the first standardized, secure and certified communication platform for local police departments, municipalities, and their agencies to communicate important, neighborhood-level information to the residents of their communities.

In a time when departments lack funds for state-of-the-art equipment, Nixle’s free service is a blessing to jurisdictions who struggle to find room in their budgets for communications technology.

Craig Mitnick, founder and CEO of Nixle, says that while other social networking sites allow agencies to connect with their communities, Nixle’s verification process is unmatched.

“This technology allows for a secure and trusted communications platform for police, fire and other municipal departments to send time-sensitive information to residents over cell phone and email,” Mitnick says. “Nixle is more focused than other social networking sites — the mass notification system can target users over a selected radius.”

How it works
Agencies can sign up for the service on the Nixle homepage, and their application will be submitted for secure registration. Once Nixle receives the application, staff members cross-reference the department information with government databases and will reach out to the department for verification. When community members who have registered on Nixle receive alerts from local agencies, they can rest assured that the message comes from the actual department.

Paul Evans, former Boston Police Commissioner and Director of Police and Crime Standards Directorate in the U.K. calls this service “vitally important.”

“First responders’ relationship with the community is based on credibility and trust. We need to make sure that when we are communicating with the public, they are getting the exact information we want them to get,” Evans says. “What I see in [Nixle] is that government agencies can have confidence to reach out to the community in a timely manner.”

“Nixle’s mission is to help build stronger, safer and more informed communities through trusted and immediate connection with residents,” Mitnick says.

With the ability to publish over 500 text messages per second (where most mass notification systems publish anywhere from 60-100 per second), Nixle is on its way to becoming the forefront of first responder communications.

Over the past few months, more than 1700 agencies across the nation, including municipalities in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis have singed up for the service. For more information on how to get your department involved, go to www.Nixle.com.

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