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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


April 25, 2014  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Local federation offers text alerts for crisis, weather, community events

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

Notification of a crisis, extreme weather conditions, or a big communitywide Jewish event is only a text message away, thanks to a program initiated by the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties. To sign up to receive the text messages, text PINELLAS to 51818.

Though the program began within the last year, the federation emailed a reminder and invitation for others to register for the local text message service a day after an openly anti-Semitic man was accused of killing three people in the Kansas City area. Those killed, all non-Jews, were a man and his grandson at the Jewish Community Center and a mother of three outside a nearby Jewish senior living facility.

“The shootings in Kansas City were hateful, shameful and reprehensible. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, their friends and the community as a whole,” said Mark Segel, executive director of the Pinellas/Pasco Federation. “It’s events like these that remind us that we’re all vulnerable and how important it is that we remain vigilant and hyper aware of our surroundings. Safety and security are responsibilities we must all take on as a community. The [Pinellas & Pasco] Jewish Federation will continue to coordinate with other Federations throughout North America and share important information as necessary…”

The federation stays in contact with the Jewish Federations of North America, as well as other law enforcement/security agencies and “will keep the community and its leadership appraised of important information,” the federation’s recent email stated, inviting folks to sign up for text alerts.

If federation officials became aware of an imminent threat in the local community and deemed it viable, they would send a text alert to those on the contact list.

Just when, and under what circumstances would be “a judgment call,” said Segel. “We want to be careful not to abuse the service.”

Segel said the federation already has a list of between 700 to 800 people on their text alert list, but will add others who want to be on it.

“We will use it from time to time to inform people of community events, so it is not just an emergency service, but it has the potential to be that if we need it,” Segel said.

He said that under some extreme weather conditions, the Federation could use the service to send out warnings or helpful information, but added, “We are not trying to replace the weather service. It will be for extreme emergencies. If we have a hurricane coming and there is information regarding preparedness, or steps to be taken for safety, then we would send out a text blast, but it is not for every weather event. For that, take advantage of the weather experts.”

Segel said the Federations of North America made the texting program available to member federations and said, “We are still experimenting with it. We have not used it a lot yet; we want to be sure there is value in the message before we send one.”

He said after the Kansas City slayings, the local federation did not send out text alerts, but made those in leadership positions aware.

“If we felt there was an imminent threat here, other messages would have gone out,” he said.

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