Madison the City's use of new texting technology has proven to be a fast and effective means of communication between city departments and residents. The new system has already generated a total 2,962 subscribers on their bfac.com texting service for all three areas - general, public safety, and public works.

According to City Clerk Susan Crandall, Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler initiated the idea of implementing the new system as a means to be able to communicate more information to city residents.

"From what I see, personally, the most important aspect about this system is to be able to inform our subscribers/residents about what's going on in Madison," Crandall said.

"It's a service that our residents or anyone can subscribe to, and it consists of three different areas," she said. "Subscribers can find out about things like road closures, bad weather alerts, or events going on in the city."

The city's first use of the system occurred during the threat of Hurricane Isaac in August, however, more features have been added since then.

"We implemented the first part of it during Hurricane Isaac, and we got a lot of messages out to people who had subscribed about the hurricane," she said. "Many of the notices go out between parks and recreation, then the majority after that would be public safety related matters."

While Crandall did say there were some administrative costs to implementing the system, she said there is no cost to subscribers who want to receive daily texts from the city. Master Sgt. Kevin Newman of the Madison Police Department will be responsible for updating the daily texts, keeping residents informed and in the loop about the latest happenings in the city.

Public Works Director Denson Robinson has already seen the benefits of having a city texting system, especially when traffic accidents occur in the area.

"I think it's a great idea - it gives us the opportunity to let people know about things. For example, last week there were some traffic issues on the interstate along with some wrecks being caused in the area and we were able to let people know that they should try to find an alternate route," he said.

Robinson also feels that receiving texts are the most efficient way of communicating with others these days, and many residents have adjusted to receiving much of their information through text messages as opposed to email or making a phone call.

"From a public safety stand point, it works simple; we use it for traffic to special events and ballgames. It seems like more people text now instead of making phone calls to communicate so it's a way that we can touch people who want to get the information," he said.

He also informed that the city is aiming to replace the call line with the new system, which he asserted will be the quickest form to relay important information. The city has plans to continue updating and adding more features so that subscribers have access to the information they need at any time, from anywhere.

"It's just another way of getting that message out," he said. "We want people to use it not only to gather information for things we send out but we want it to be something people will use. At some point in time we plan to start sending out public posting about ballgame cancelations due to bad weather, right now we have a call line for that but we hope that eventually we'll have everyone subscribe to this and then we can get rid of that call line."

If you'd like to get a text on all urgent news from Madison The City, text ...   MADISON to 601-707-8356.

 If you want the latest from Madison Police and Madison Fire, text ... SAFETY to 601-707-9234.

 If you want the latest from Madison Public Works, text ...  WORKS to 601-707-4023.

 If you later decide the texts you receive are too much, just hit REPLY and text QUIT.

For two years, the city of Ridgeland has offered a similar service called "Ridgeland Alert." Citizens can go to the city's official website and opt in for texts, phone calls, and emails for similar announcements.