Public Info

Municipalities Encouraged to Join UC First Alert

Union County First Alert “Best Option” for Emergency, Traffic and Community Notification

Union County – Union County municipalities seeking a cost effective way of relaying critical information to the public and emergency responders during a crisis, can do so by using Union County First Alert; the County’s free emergency messaging system.

In contrast to private emergency alert options, the Union County First Alert system is available to all municipalities at no cost for email and text alerts (text messaging rates do apply). In addition to email and text alerts, the Union County First Alert system also provides municipalities with voice messaging at a low rate. As part of a shared service endeavor, Union County First Alert was unveiled on February 11, 2009 and has been providing critical emergency and community notifications to Union County residents with great success.

The Union County First Alert system is powered by Cooper Notification’s Roam Secure Alert Network™ (RSAN™), and can enable city and county officials to send e-mail, text and voice messages to first responders and the County’s more than 500,000 citizens via cell phones, pagers, Blackberry®, and other mass notification media during an emergency. Notifications can also be made in Spanish and other languages. For the special needs community, the system can deliver a message via Telecommunications Device for the Deaf/Teletypewriter (TDD/TTY) without pre-registration or administrative configuration.

Union County First Alert was an initiative of then Chairman, Angel G. Estrada. “It was important for the County to have a mechanism in place to relay critical public safety information to our residents,” said Freeholder Angel G. Estrada. “While First Alert initially was a public safety initiative, the reality is this has “shared services” written all over it.” In the past, the only option for municipal police departments was to purchase their own “Reverse 9-1-1” systems, which cost over $75,000 plus the cost of additional telephone lines. Freeholder Estrada added “Union County First Alert has made “Reverse 9-1-1” very affordable for many municipalities.”

Municipalities across the state, including the Townships of Cranford and Hillside, are discontinuing their service with private companies as they begin to charge for non-emergency text alerts and other messages. Nixle, the company previously used by Cranford and Hillside and currently used in several other municipalities, imposes annual fees and, as of April 29, 2011, service fees on non-emergency notifications according to an articles posted by Cranford Chronicle on May 5, 2011 and the Daily Record on April 30, 2011. In contrast, these services are available free through the Union County First Alert program.

“Union County First Alert is without question the best option for local police departments to disseminate emergency, traffic and community messages for their respective residents,” said Hillside Police Chief Robert Quinlan. “I encourage all Hillside, and Union County residents, to sign up with the Union County First Alert system so they can receive emergency service announcements from their local officials.”

Municipalities interested in joining the Union County First Alert should contact Cherron Rountree, Division Director of Intergovernmental Policy and Planning at 908.527.4200. Training will be provided by the County’s Department of Public Safety. Residents who wish to sign up for the system can do so at