Council alert scoops national tech award

AN online council alert system for Northumberland has beaten off more than 200 entries to scoop a national technology award.

Northumberland County Council’s winter alert system was introduced in December 2009 to keep residents up to date with weather warnings and service information during heavy snowfall.

The scheme, which was available through the authority’s website and Facebook and Twitter sites, was such a hit with the public that it was made available year-round, providing instant information on school closures, road conditions, flood alerts, bin collections and major emergencies.

And now it has picked up a gong for Most Innovative Use of New Media in the national Public Service Communications Awards.

Council Leader Jeff Reid said: “This award is great national recognition of the innovative work going on in this area.

“The alerts system has proved a real hit with the public and has enabled us to get vital service information to people as soon as possible in the way they find most convenient.

“We now keep the alerts open all year round so people can access information whatever the time of year. When we get bad weather it can really have an impact so this lets people get the information they need in a faster, clearer way.

“We have almost 3,000 miles of roads and more than 180 schools so our new alerts have been really useful.”

More than 13,500 people now use the service, with alerts updated by council staff and teachers.

They appear instantly in a dedicated section at the top of the council’s homepage, as well as on the social networking sites.

Coun Reid added: “We now have a thriving online community of local people who have actively agreed to receive communications and engage with the council on their own terms.

“So far local people seem to feel involved, engaged and able to access useful, local information in a way that suits them.”