The state Department of Public Safety has established a Nixle account that will allow information about prison escapes and other events to be distributed to Hawaii residents in a timely fashion.
Nixle’s technology allows for a message to be broadcast as an email or text message to anyone with an email account, smart phone or both who wants to subscribe to messages being sent out through an agency or other entity. The service is used by a growing number of law enforcement, emergency management and other agencies that want to communicate quickly with a large number of people.
Public Safety’s decision to use Nixle was spurred in part by last Thursday morning’s escape by accused murderer Teddy Munet, who escaped from corrections officers as he was stepping off a van at Honolulu Circuit Court. Munet was scheduled to appear in court that morning. He was located about 11.5 hours later about eight blocks away.
Some questioned why neighbors in the surrounding Kakaako community were not notified earlier and Public Safety Director Ted Sakai acknowledged that a better communication system is necessary.
Toni Schwartz, DPS public information director, said using a public alert system was something already in the works but moved up her priority list following Munet’s escape.
While the account is up, she and Sakai are still working out the details of what information should be sent out, Schwartz said. “We want to keep in mind what the community will be interested in and we don’t want to flood them with too much,” she said.
There will be alert, advisory and community level messages, Schwartz said.
Alert messages will be used for critical situations such as escapes or manhunts involving sheriffs, she said. Advisory messages would apply to those within a specific community and interested in narrower interests such as when OCCC visitations are cancelled, she said. Community messages would be those geared for a broader audience such as notification of a public hearing, she said.
“Things like escapes and visitation cancellations affect a large group of people,” Schwartz said, urging Hawaii residents to sign on. “We want to get people alerts fast.”
Signing up for Nixle is free to the public. To set up an account and to subscribe, go to nixle.com.