The way you receive emergency alerts in Wichita Falls has changed.
On Monday, June 1st, 2015 the Code Red system expired and the new system, Nixle, launched. The Wichita Falls Police Department has already been using a free version for two years and they said it has had great success.
"The feedback that we got back from the citizens was phenomenal," Officer Jeff Hughes, the Public Information Officer for WFPD said, "They loved getting the alerts, they loved getting the information via text message and email."
With the contract for Code Red ending on June 1st, city officials decided to look at alternatives including Nixle.
"We were looking for more than just emergency notifications, but also a social media piece that when you send out an alert it will go to Twitter, Facebook, and things like that," Wichita Falls Fire Department Chief Jon Reese said, "So, this actually does that. It's a one stop shop."
The hardest part is getting people to sign up for the alerts, but it is simple. All you have to do is text your zip code to 888777.
"You're going to get emergency notifications from the police department, the fire department, the city, and the emergency management division," Officer Hughes said.
There are a few differences between Code Red and Nixle. Nixle does everything that Code Red used to do with some extra features added. This includes text alerts, and email alerts.
To get the email alerts, all you have to do is go to nixle.com and create an account. It is free to sign up.
"It's a win win for the city. It's a win win for the citizens and we're getting the word out to as many people as possible," Officer Hughes said.
You can also personalize your account by choosing which entities you get information from. So, you don't have to accept the alerts from everyone. Another addition to the emergency alert system is that city officials aren't restricted to just sending out emergency alerts. They can send information about areas to avoid because of an accident, or they can send out health alerts. For example, when the health department announced free tetanus shots after the flooding, they could push that through Nixle.
Officer Hughes said, "If I need to contact every police officer, I can shoot out a Nixle instead of having to call every single one of them."
Any department has this capability. So, as he said, the possibilities with the program are endless. Plus, the program costs less than Code Red, so they are getting more bang for their buck.
For all of the other agencies using Nixle besides WFPD, there was a crossover period. Officials wanted to make sure it performed the way they wanted it to.
"When time is of the essence, rather than have to type three different messages, you type on, you send it, and it goes to all," Chief Reese said.
Some Texomans reached out to Newschannel 6 about what happens if they do not have a smartphone. Officer Hughes said you will still get a text. However, you will not be able to open up the attachment unless you have internet access. If you have signed up for email alerts, the texts will just notify you when to check your email.
If you don't have an email account don't worry. Nixle has the automated phone message to your landline. All of the people who signed up under Code Red have been transferred over to the Nixle system.