VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Changes are coming for Virginia Beach residents when it comes to how the city communicates with them during emergencies.
VBAlert has been around for a few years, but the contract for the program came up this year. The city is moving to a new alert system that will have more features.
VBAlert will solely be on its new platform starting October 1. So, if you previously signed up for alerts on the old system, you will need to re-register on the new system.
“It’s just another tool in the toolbox that the city uses to keep the citizen informed of what’s going on,” said Stephen Williams, the Director of Emergency Communications and Citizens Services for the City of Virginia Beach. “We wanted the new system to not only help our citizens, but also the visitors who come in for these special events.”
VBAlert will still focus on information affecting citizens, like road closures, severe weather updates, information about police activity, etc.
“It seems like a good way to contact residents and let us know what’s going on, if there’s an emergency,” said Virginia Beach resident Melissa Kobeski.
Virginia Beach resident April Sharer said, “I’m always struggling to find…’am I in danger or not?’ Especially around hurricane season so I would love that.”
The new aspect of the software gives city officials the ability to create messages for people who are attending specific events. Officials tested that aspect of the technology at last year’s Something in the Water festival.
Another part of the technology coming in the next few months is SMART 911. This lets you create a profile with basic information about you and your family, like who is living in the home, if anyone has any disabilities, if the family has any pets, etc. This information will only be shared with first responders when you call 911. That information can make a huge difference when minutes matter.
“You call 911 from the phone number that is registered, that information will pop up to a 911 call taker and they will be able to provide that information to first responders who are coming out to help you,” Williams said.
To sign up, text “VBAlert” to 67283. You do need to sign up, even if you were on the old system.
If you plan on attending a city event, like fireworks or Something in the Water, keep an eye out for information on how to sign up for alerts for those specific events.