Changes to Pennsylvania Prison Emergency Notification are Coming Oct. 1

Sep 13, 2011, 10:28 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Corrections Secretary Encourages Public to Register for Service

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Corrections is moving forward with plans to use existing technology to achieve emergency notification in lieu of a separate system/contract.  The move will save taxpayers more than $38,000 per year.  Effective Oct. 1, the AlertPA system will be the only system used to notify citizens of prison emergencies.

"Citizens will be notified about prison emergencies by the state's AlertPA emergency notification system," Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said. "All they need to do is sign up."

In 2009, the Commonwealth launched AlertPA, a system that helps officials quickly send emergency landline and cell telephone calls, texts and email alerts, and other important notifications, to users to assist them in making informed decisions.  Individuals can register for AlertPA by going to and clicking on Alerts & Advisories.  Users can choose the method of notification – pager, text, email and/or voice message to a landline and/or a cell phone.

"It makes more sense in today's world of ever-advancing technology to be able to receive such notices on your cell phone or by text messaging," Wetzel said.  "Now, no matter where you are, you can receive instant notice of a prison emergency."

For several years, the DOC has used two notification systems to insure coverage; however, with the call to reduce spending, this expense is being eliminated.

"Through press releases and newsletter articles, we informed citizens that a change was coming, but that action was required on their part," Wetzel continued.

The DOC's previous contractor automatically contacted listed telephone numbers within a one- or two-mile radius of each state prison.  Cell phones, unlisted numbers and e-mail addresses were not included.  DOC officials believe that this approach will actually allow for a wider range of individuals to be notified in the event of an emergency.

To receive notifications, citizens must register via the Internet to be notified about emergencies.  For those who do not have Internet access, they may contact their nearest state prison's critical incident manager who will enter their information into the system for them.  Individuals who previously registered with AlertPA will not have to re-register.

"We are hopeful that citizens living and working around our state prisons will take advantage of this service, which will keep them informed, via a variety of methods, should a major incident happen at one of our prisons." Wetzel said.

In addition to calls from AlertPA, the DOC notifies citizens of a prison emergency by sounding the involved prison's whistle/siren, by posting information on the DOC website at and by providing information via the DOC's emergency message line at 888-316-8950.

Media contacts: Susan McNaughton, 717-975-4879

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Corrections