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Community Alerts launches national registration campaign

Community Alerts Ltd, a Sussex based company, are launching a campaign to register the mobile phone numbers, email addresses and postcodes of every member of the public. The aim is to encourage every community to work together and help each other if the worst should happen.

Soon, if a child is abducted anywhere in the country people within the immediate vicinity will be alerted by mobile phone (up to 6,000 people a minute) and can assist the Police in those first crucial hours. This is a major campaign to help bring communities closer together and to combat one of our worst fears.

Sussex Police has become the first force in the country to launch Child Rescue Alert a pioneering new scheme aimed at tracing kidnapped children who are in imminent danger of serious harm or death by providing an early warning system to radio and television stations across the region. If successful this scheme will be introduced nationally.

Phase 2 of Child Rescue will look to incorporate the sending of text messages to members of the public. For a pilot period, until June 2003, Sussex Police have agreed to use the SMS service of Community Alerts Ltd for the purpose of Child Rescue Alert.

Since December 2001 Community Alerts has been developing a service, which incorporates text messaging with location based services to specifically help in child abduction cases. We believe that a national system will be hugely successful and will save lives. For that reason our campaign is a national one and by the spring of 2003 we aim to have a database of millions of willing helpers across the whole country.

Community Alerts approached Sussex Police with this new idea and they saw the benefits immediately. Text messaging could be so important to saving a child’s life because 70% of the population own a mobile phone and carry them around on their person - the police can reach people on the move in the community.

However, prevention is better than cure and Community Alerts is not just about missing children. It’s about warning communities and making them aware of danger; it’s about reporting attempted abductions and other potentially dangerous criminal activity so people do not put themselves, or family, at risk. We are committed to making it available to every police force in the country and we believe this initiative could dramatically help reduce the threat of serious crime within a community.

We will also make the service available to other organisations that need to be able to communicate effectively with members of the public in specific locations. These could include; utility companies updating people without power or warning people of contaminated water; the 170,000 Neighbourhood Watch coordinators warning people in their street about Bogus Callers; Environmental Agencies who need to update people on flood warnings; Health Authorities to provide advice on outbreaks of dangerous diseases or the local authority concerned with fumes from a dangerous industrial incident.

The database will be securely held by Community Alerts and will never be used to send messages of a commercial nature. Registration for members of the public will always be free. Very importantly, because Community Alerts uses geo-coding to target its messaging accurately, people will receive very few alerts and if they do it will always be relevant to them.

The Community Alerts service can be linked to a voice messaging service that provides the recipient additional and extremely pertinent information relating to the incident in question.

This service becomes even more powerful with the advent of picture messaging and triangulation. Community Alerts will soon be able to transmit the photo of a missing child or the e-fit of a dangerous criminal to thousands of mobile phones within the vicinity.

How the system will work with Child Rescue Alert

The service works by combining text messages and emails with geo-coding, which allows messages to be sent to specific people in a specific area. The pilot in Sussex will encourage everyone with a mobile phone or email address to register. They will be able to register up to 4 postcodes (for example: home, work and schools attended by their children).

The service works by automatically allocating a grid reference to every postcode. When the police issue an alert they inform Community Alerts of the location and the distribution area e.g. a 10 mile radius from RH17 6SR. Anyone within that 10 mile radius would then receive the message within minutes of it being sent.

The most important aspect about the service is the ability to quickly send thousands of text messages to people in the immediate vicinity of where the child has just gone missing.

There will be strict guidelines on when the police will issue an alert, these are:

• The child must be under 16 years of age

• There is a belief that the child has been kidnapped

• There is belief that the child is in imminent danger of serious harm or death

• There is sufficient information available to enable the public to assist police in locating the child

The service gives everyone the chance to make a difference and help where previously we have all just felt helpless.

HOW TO REGISTER

To register, either go online to: www.communityalerts.co.uk where you can register several postcodes (takes less than a minute)

Or Register by Mobile: Simply send the keyword ALERTS and your postcode to 07786 208080 (this is not a premium number and you will not be charged for texts sent to you)

e.g Text message should read: ALERTS RH176SR

N.B.1 There should be a gap between the word ALERTS and the postcode but the postcode should not have a space in the middle of it.

N.B.2 To save unnecessary administrational costs you will not be notified of registration until the service goes live in your area.

You can register up to 4 postcodes (home, work or schools attended by your children) on separate text messages whenever you like.

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