Bradford County residents can now choose to receive free alerts from the Bradford County Emergency Operations Center when there are emergency events occurring, such as an evacuation from flooding, roads being closed due to flooding, or a bridge being shut down.

The alerts are in written form and residents decide how they'd like to receive the messages. Among the ways that a resident could choose to receive the alerts are as an email or as a text message sent to his or her cell phone, said Bradford County Public Safety Director Robert Barnes.

The county Emergency Operations Center will send the messages out, at no charge to residents, using a web-based public alert system called "Nixle," which is now up and running for Bradford County residents, he said.

"'Nixle' is a web-based communication system that connects residents with the agencies that serve and protect them," states a press release that was issued on Tuesday by the Bradford County Emergency Management Agency. "Residents can use Nixle to receive information ranging from critical alerts to community news. Additionally, residents can choose how they receive this information - by SMS (text message), email, over the Web or by mobile application."

To sign up for the service, residents can log onto Nixle.com. Once on the site, they should search for and subscribe to "Bradford County Emergency Management."

The Bradford County Emergency Operations Center will use the Nixle system only until it can get a more effective and efficient system in place to alert residents to emergency situations, such as a so-called "reverse 911 system," Barnes said, adding that the county is currently in discussions with township supervisors and borough officials about the possible implementation of such as system.

Barnes said that one problem with Nixle is that alerts can only be sent to residents who sign up to receive them, while a reverse 911 system can reach many more people by sending out a warning to every land-line phone in the county, unless a resident had previously told the county not to send messages to his or her phone. He also said that a resident could also choose to have the messages from a reverse 911 system sent to a cell phone.

Depending on the scope of a particular emergency, the county could choose to send out a reverse 911 message to only those residents who would be affected by that emergency, Barnes said.

For example, if there were a water main break in Towanda Borough, a reverse 911 message about a boil water advisory might only be sent to the affected residents in the Towanda area.

Nixle has been in existence for several years and is used in other locations in the United States.

James Loewensten can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.To sign up for free emergency alerts:

To receive emergency alerts from the county, go to Nixle.Com and sign up for a free account. At the website, search for and subscribe to "Bradford County Emergency Management."