Farmington Hills police encourage residents to sign up for new alert system

By: Alex Szwarc | Farmington Press | Published May 20, 2019


FARMINGTON HILLS — The city of Farmington Hills has unveiled a new and improved critical communications and emergency alert system called FH Alert.

The new system, powered by the company Everbridge, which has provided critical communications for national events such as the Boston Marathon bombing and devastating hurricanes, has replaced the city’s previous system.

While Nixle previously didn’t cost the city anything to operate, Nixle is now charging cities that use its services per nonemergency alert sent out, which is one of the primary reasons the city made the switch. The new system will cost the city just under $20,000 per year to use.

Nixle was primarily used for emergency alert purposes only. However,  under the city’s new alert system, residents can sign up to be informed on a plethora of city communications and updates, including emergency alerts, city event cancellations, election notices, emergency preparedness information, road closures and other traffic information, trash and recycling changes, severe weather, public safety and crime, and park and field closures.

“It has more flexibility. Residents can receive all of the alerts or just pick the specific ones they are interested in, as well as focus in on their geographic area,” said Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey. “You can get a lot more information, and it’s more customizable for the user.”

Another improvement that comes with this change is the city and the Police Department’s ability to draw exact barriers around the specific area they want to target, said Cmdr. John Piggott, of the Farmington Hills Police Department.

“For us, one of the things that makes it more effective is that where Nixle you would set a radius for where you wanted that alert to go — you could pinpoint an address and extend it out 3 or 4 miles — Everbridge is better because it allows you to geofence the specific area you want to alert,” said Piggott.

Piggott said this will allow the Police Department to think more critically about where certain alerts should be pushed. Rather than “spooking everyone in the city,” the new system allows police to specifically target the area where they’re seeing an issue with crime or public safety, from an entire neighborhood to an apartment complex to just a few specific houses or buildings.

Residents who were previously signed up for Nixle must re-register to receive alerts from the new FH Alert system. They can do so by visiting and clicking on the FH Alert icon at the bottom of the website’s main page. Once residents have signed up, they can notify the system of their preferred contact method — text message, cellphone, home phone or email.

Residents with a landline phone are automatically subscribed to mass communication alerts that go out through the new system, though they can opt out of the system by visiting the city’s website if they do not wish to receive any alerts.

People who live outside of the city boundaries in a neighboring city, who work within Farmington Hills or just are interested in receiving alerts can sign up using City Hall’s address: 31555 W. 11 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48336.

“There are a lot of people that have interest in what goes on in the community. They watch things and listen to things,” said Massey. “And we want to be able to support that so they can get the information they desire.”

City officials have noted that they will continue to use other methods of communication already in place — such as press releases, group email lists, social media, and their collaborations with media and community partners — alongside the new FH Alert system, in order to disseminate information in whichever way people prefer to receive it.

City officials also plan to potentially add additional alert options as they see the need or as interest from residents arises, said Kelly Monico, the director of central services for the city of Farmington Hills.

“We’ll probably get there once we see the need,” she said. “People are information junkies. They want to be notified, but we want to make sure it’s appropriate and there’s enough interest.”