Northern Arizona team launches emergency service alerts

Communities / Article

The following blog post, written by Susan Mernit, details the launch of a Knight Community Information Challenge winner. Photo credit: USDA Forest Service, Coconino National Forest. Through July 1 we are accepting applications for the Knight Community Information Challenge, which provides matching funding to community and place-based foundations supporting news and information projects. 

It’s live! After eight months of planning and development, e928.org, Northern Arizona’s Free Mobile Service for Local Emergency News and Information, is live on the web and about to start sharing data with citizens.

Funded in part by grants from the Knight Community Information Challenge, the Flagstaff Community Foundation, and the Arizona Community Foundatione928 Emergency News Source shares information with subscribers related to fires, including news, video, audio reports, social media links, mapping and graphics. Built to provide mobile alerts to smart phones, the service is the result of a partnership between the Flagstaff Community Foundation, KNAU Arizona Public Radio, and the Arizona Daily Sun newspaper and has several government data entities involved as well. “Northern Arizona has experienced more and more more frequent and catastrophic mega fires that grow larger every year, ” says Keith Gemora, e928‘s project manager,  “We needed an efficient way to pool information to give the public real-time wildfire information, including fire lines and evacuation routes, especially when they’re not at their computers.” What makes the service especially promising, however, are the additional relationships–and data feeds–from county,  state and government entities.  e928.org has forged relationships with local, state and federal agencies, including the Coconino County Office of Emergency Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Weather Service, and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department that add real value to the project. “Basically, we’ve got all sorts of feeds and alerts going into the system,” says Gemora, who has managed the project since Knight Foundation first funded the project in 2012. “If there’s an incident going on everyone who is subscribed receives automated email alerts on their phones.” For e928.org, forging relationships with local and national partners was essential.  As Gemora describes it, although the media partners provide important, researched information, the National Weather Service, the US Forest Service and Coconino County provide important updates and data streams that are essential.  Currently, for example, the best way to track a fire in Northern Arizona is to log onto inciweb, a national site maintained by The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) a coalition made up of members from the USDA Forest Service and four Department of the Interior agencies: Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Fish and Wildlife Service; plus state forestry agencies through the National Association of State Foresters.

But the goverment site isn’t very mobile friendly,  and the data offered is  limited.   e928.org will  have both richer data (and more sources) and a mobile-friendly interface and email delivery option that make information accessible to people on the move -like those trying to cope with a fire.

More information can be found on e928.org’s site and on its Facebook page

Applications for the Knight Community Information Challenge, which offers matching funds to community and place-based foundations for news and information projects, are being accepted through June 1.  More information here.