Worcester Sheriff encourages community to sign up for ‘Ping 4′ alert system

(NECN: Mike Cronin) – When the bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon back in April, panic and chaos ensued. It’s just one example of how quickly an event can turn into a public safety emergency. For law enforcement or other officials, getting information out to the public as quickly as possible is critical. On Thursday, Worcester County took a big step forward when it comes to using technology to keep citizens alert.

“I just hit it and that’s all you do,” explains Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis.

It’s a simple way to keep the public safe. Sheriff Evangelidis showed off ping four alerts.

“We believe it’s going to be a really effective tool and very cost effective at the same time,” he says.

Ping4 is a free downloadable cell phone application. Using the technology, the sheriff’s department can send out immediate public safety alerts to mobile phone users in central Massachusetts.

“Whether it be a missing person, whether it be amber alert, whether it be a criminal activity or even severe weather or traffic,” he explains.

Sheriff Evangelidis says he’s the first sheriff in New England to use the application for county wide jurisdiction. It uses GPS, cell network, and Wi-Fi technology.

“It moves with your phone so it doesn’t matter where you live, it’s where you are at the moment and if there’s a public safety issue involved where you are at that moment, you can be notified on your phone.”

Evangelidis says it replaces a reverse 911 call system, which he says cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain. Ping four will cost the department $10,000 a year.

“Low cost, very effective system replacing an antiquated expensive system. It’s a win win,” he says.

“Anymore communication tool that we can give out to the public is great,” says Boylston Fire Chief Joseph Flanagan.

Evangelidis told all county fire and police officials about the application. Flanagan says Ping4 will help his department when they respond to emergencies.

“If there’s any incident that requires a road closure or if there’s a heavy smoke in the area, things like that where people who are driving through the community certainly the Ping4 system is a fabulous tool for that,” Flanagan says.

Ping4 is effective this week in Worcester County. Evangelidis says it’ll provide the most immediate public safety information for the community.

“Sign up for this application,” he says. “We want to keep you safer.”