Mayor’s Office

City of Burlington Broadens Use of State's VT-Alert Rapid Notification System to Include Local Warnings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 21, 2020
Contact: Olivia LaVecchia
                (802) 734-0617

                Robert Goulding
                (802) 540-0846

 

City of Burlington Broadens Use of State’s VT-Alert Rapid Notification System to Include Local Warnings

Mayor Miro Weinberger encourages Burlingtonians to sign up to receive alerts by phone, text, or email for emerging and urgent issues

 

Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced that the City of Burlington will broaden its use of the State VT-Alert system for rapid alert notifications about emerging and urgent local issues. With the City’s expansion of its use of the system, members of the public will be able to sign up for calls, texts, or emails about certain categories of urgent alerts, including boil water advisories, major storm preparations, beach closures, snow bans, and other critical notifications.

“One of the wonders of the modern world is our capacity for immediate communications, but until now the City lacked the ability to urgently and reliably contact all of our residents,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “I urge all Burlingtonians to sign up for VT-Alert today in order to receive time-sensitive information from the City.”

By working with the State to use this statewide system, the City is able to provide VT-Alert at no cost to the community. Please go to www.burlingtonvt.gov/BTV-Alerts to learn more, and click on the banner at the top of the page to sign up.

Background

Last summer, Burlington had to issue a precautionary boil water advisory in parts of the South End for the first time in memory, out of an abundance of caution and to comply with a recent change in State regulations. The City worked to alert the public to this advisory, including through a press conference call, up to the minute social media notifications, and an email to water customers with up-to-date email contact information. While the advisory was precautionary and the risks of water-illness extremely low in this event, the fact that some residents did not immediately receive the notification highlighted the need for a more robust City notification method for local issues.

Immediately following the incident, the Water Resources Division’s Customer Care and Finance Manager, Jessica Lavalette, identified VT-Alert as a powerful outreach platform that would meet the Water Division’s needs for emergency notification, and likely serve other City notification needs as well. As a result, the Mayor created a cross-departmental team from the Department of Public Works, Fire Department, Police Department, Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department, and Innovation & Technology Department, with additional departments joining at times, to examine the tool further and develop a coordinated plan for an improved notification framework. Following conversations with the State, this working group confirmed that VT-Alert was an effective tool for the City’s needs. The group then developed procedures that outline how the City will use VT-Alert and for what types of events.

How VT-Alert Works

VT-Alert is a powerful tool. By using it, the City will be able to contact users who sign up with texts, calls, and emails, for certain types of categories that users select. These notifications will be limited to public safety or public health concerns. VT-Alert allows users to choose whether they prefer text, call, or email, or all of the above, and users can unsubscribe at any time. The system also allows users to set quiet hours to limit any overnight notifications. The City has previously used VT-Alert only in a limited way, and primarily as one of the systems for snow ban notification. For certain types of emergencies, the system also has the capability of alerting residents who did not opt-in to VT-Alert.

For the following categories, any user who signs up for VT-Alert and inputs a Burlington address, or signs up for “City of Burlington Alerts”, will receive an alert:

  • Boil water advisory
  • Do not drink water order (should such a requirement occur)
  • 911 phone system failure
  • Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activation
  • Evacuation
  • Major storm preparation
  • Other significant fire or emergency

For the following categories of lesser urgency, users will specifically need to opt-in to the “City of Burlington Alerts” category within the VT-Alert system, and also select the relevant sub-category:

  • Snow bans
    • Users who want to sign up for this category should select both “City of Burlington” and “Transportation alerts > Winter parking bans”
    • The City will continue to use both GovDelivery and VT-Alert for snow ban notification through this winter, but will discontinue use of GovDelivery for snow ban notification after April 2020
  • Beach closures
    • Users who want to sign up for this category should select both “City of Burlington” and “Health alerts > Beach closures”
  • Major road arterial closures related to construction
    • Users who want to sign up for this category should select both “City of Burlington” and “Transportation alerts > Road closures, disruptions, and delays”

In addition, VT-Alert will also allow the City to send some location-specific notifications. The City plans to use these to alert impacted areas of water main breaks during business hours. To sign up for these, users can input a specific address upon sign-up or later, and select “City of Burlington” and “Infrastructure > Water system outage.”

As the City continues to use the VT-Alert system, it may add additional categories and uses. Users should also note that at this time, the City does not plan to use all of the categories that are preset in the VT-Alert system, such as the “planned events” category.

Over the coming weeks, the City will be doing additional outreach to spread the word about VT-Alert and ask Burlingtonians to sign up for notifications. To sign-up, users can go to www.burlingtonvt.gov/BTV-Alerts and click on the banner at the top that reads “Sign up for VT-Alert” to be directed to the VT-Alert portal. Then, users will be guided through a few screens to create an account, input contact information, and identify categories of interest. The entire process takes less than five minutes.

“Public health and safety are the priorities for DPW Water Resources,” said Megan Moir, Division Director of Water Resources at the Department of Public Works. “We have been making a historic upgrade to our water systems, but emergencies will always be a small part of the infrastructure business. We are excited to have such a powerful notification tool in the event of such emergencies, however unlikely.”

“I am pleased that the City is broadening our use of this rapid notification system,” said Steven Locke, Chief of the Burlington Fire Department. “The VT-Alert system will allow the residents of Burlington to have greater situational awareness of public safety and public health issues when they arise.”

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Press Release Date: 
01/21/2020
City Department: 
Mayor's Office