Next time there’s a high-speed car chase in the county or a road closing due to an accident on Interstate 65, you could be one of the first to know.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Office has been testing an emergency text message and e-mail program, called Nixle, for weeks. It is now up and running, and the BCSO is ready for the public to sign up.

“We try to pride ourselves on technology, being on the cutting edge,” said Sheriff Ken Campbell. “And now we can reach this new generation that have (a cell phone) permanently fixed their hand.”

The program allows Campbell or any deputy with access to send a text message or e-mail to subscribers detailing a number of important situations that fall into four categories: An alert, like a missing child or an impending storm; an advisory, such as unlicensed solicitors in a neighborhood; a community message, to remind about an upcoming event; and traffic alerts, like an unplanned road closing.

Subscribers may sign up to receive messages about any or all of the categories in text message or e-mail format — or both. The service is free, although text messages will cost whatever the subscriber’s cell phone plan outlines.

“This allows us to get information out to folks in an efficient and timely manner,” Campbell said.

The BCSO has been trying to get a system like this going for several years, Campbell said, but the expense has kept it at bay. Schools and universities use similar systems, but it doesn’t get too pricey because less people are involved. But to have a county-wide system, it was going to cost upwards of $50,000. So they started to look into grants.

“That’s a lot of money,” Campbell said, “even for a crucial technological advancement like this.”

He thought of social networking sites like Twitter to get the job done. But they are so insecure that “you could sign up to be the Queen of England,” he said. He needed a more secure server.

Through the National Sheriffs Association, Campbell learned of the Nixle program which uses the secure server NLETS — something law enforcement has been using for years. He studied up, and decided it was exactly what he was looking for. And it was free.

“This is a win, win, win across the board,” Campbell said. “I got more than my seven cents out of the nickel this time.”

Nixle is also a national program, so people in other locations can sign up to receive Boone County updates, and Boone County residents can receive updates from other Nixle locations.

Campbell sent out a message recently reminding subscribers about Whitestown’s National Night Out. He soon received a message from a past classmate that lives in California. She wanted to tell him that she signed up for Nixle updates from Boone County because her father lives here. She can know what’s going on, for example if a criminal was on the run, and call her father to warn him to lock his doors.

“This not only helps us protect and inform those here, but you can take care of others around the country,” Campbell said. “It’s a neat program with lots of potential to lead to better communication.”

It will also free up some of the emergency lines, Campbell said. Not as many people will be calling 911 to warn of a power outage, as on Thursday evening, if they receive a text from the BCSO.

To sign up for BCSO notifications, log on to the Web site at and click on the “Text and e-mail alerts” link on the right side of the page.

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