When there's a traffic tie-up caused by an accident or by the utilities expansion project, or severe weather coming or, God forbid, someone is on a shooting rampage, Cape Coral residents are going to have another way to be informed.
Officials with the Cape Coral Police Department, Fire Department and city announced Monday the introduction of Ping4alerts, a free mobile app for smartphones that will give residents free, timely safety alerts.
Dana Coston, CCPD spokesperson, held a morning news conference to introduce the technology and gave local media a demonstration of how the system works.
City officials, meanwhile, gave glowing testimonials on how the app can help their departments along with local citizenry.
"About 65 percent of all people have smartphone technology and Ping4 will be utilized to have specificity, and provide health and safety alerts for the motoring and stationary public," city manager John Szerlag said.
The tool is a location-based system the city can use to target specific areas using drawing tools that create "geofences" and alert only the users in the specific area or those who enter the area. It also can provide opportunities for targeted messages at specific parks or city facilities.
It can also integrate with the other applications the departments use now, and further increases the use of social networking.
"This tool will allow us to be in contact with our citizens, and the most important thing is that it's real time," Police Chief Bart Connelly said. "It will provide information on missing children, missing adults, if a SWAT team has to do something in the area. The citizens will know what the police will be doing."
Anyone driving through an area will get an alert through their phone, an alert that can be disregarded through the mute button, if the alert is a minor one.
The system can also override your mute settings in critical life-threatening emergencies.
The technology will also allow people driving through an area to know if there are registered sex offenders living there or let people know if there's an accident that could tie up traffic.
Ping4 will impact fire protection and the department's all-hazard approach. It can alert people to brush fires, other big events at the fire stations or impending storms, Fire Chief Donald Cochran said.
City government can use the information to inform citizens about flooded roads, give UEP alerts on road conditions and, in the future, about waterline breaks, city spokesperson Connie Barron said.
The app can be downloaded directly from the CCPD website, the city website and from ping4.com onto their Apple and Android devices. There is no charge to download it or per alert, Coston said.
"The app can also let you in on where certain gas stations are, or you can forget about it and it will only alert you when major events are happening near you," Coston said.
Its features include audio alerts with attention-getting sounds and voice messages, 100 percent protection of your identity, one touch dialing to reach an agency, sharing through social media, and the ability to send anonymous tips.
"The city has a history of adoption of new and innovative technologies and being on the forefront of it," Coston said.
The technology will cost the city just over $20,000 over three years, which is a tremendous cost savings over other applications, Coston said.
Ping4alerts was used by Massachusetts public safety agency during the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect by creating a "geofence" around Watertown and alerting residents of the situation and to stay in their homes.