Community Notification Systems or “Reverse 911”-type systems (“Reverse 911” is actually the name of a specific vendor’s product) are computer systems – usually a PC – that have special software and a built-in device that connects the PC to some or many phone lines.
The software typically allows automated calls to be made to telephones in a geographic area (e.g., the west end of town, sector 2, etc.) or to telephones on a special list (e.g., all parents of school children at a specific school, all members of crime watch groups, all call firefighters, etc.). A trained user records a message (e.g., “This is a friendly reminder from your Police Department that …”) and triggers the software to call the selected group of telephones in a time interval (e.g., between 9 AM and 8 PM).
The technology has been called “evil telemarketing technology put to the public good”. It needs to be used thoughtfully and sparingly; persons who are called need to be able to have their name taken off the list for future calls if they so choose, and it requires training to use the technology well.
Here are some resources:
(there are more, particularly the products used by schools to contact parents)
Some sample uses in Massachusetts:
Cambridge EC Street Cleaning Notification
Watertown Middle School Principal
Concord Police are said to use a system
Cambridge Police Crime Pattern Notification
Andover Police Crime Pattern Notification