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The Ayer Police encourage residents to sign up for text and email alerts through the Nixle.com website.
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AYER — The Ayer Police are employing a new tool in hopes of reaching residents with important public safety news. A new text and email alert system, operated by Nixle.com, is up and running for immediate alerts on Ayer public safety matters.

Just text 888777 from your cell phone with Ayer’s zip code as the message (01432) and then alerts will be sent automatically to your cell phone, wherever you may be.

And now with Smartphone technology placing your email inbox in your hand, visitors to Nixle.com can also fill out an online form to receive emailed alerts in addition to the text alerts.

“It’s geared towards law enforcement,” said Ayer Police Lieutenant Brian Gill. “It allows us to instantly get out any message we need to get to the public.”

Alerts could vary from snow storm preparation, school closings, or road closures due to accidents.

The first time the Ayer Police sent out a Nixle alert was for a motor vehicle accident on Feb. 28 due to an accident on Groton Shirley Road. A few hours later, a follow-up alert was sent stating that the road was reopened to through traffic.

The system was employed again on March 12 when the original word was that the Route 110/111 bridge over Route 2 in Harvard would close. MassDOT reversed that closure, permitting half the lanes to remain open.

Last summer, the police used reverse 911 phone calls to targeted homes to alert residents to a roaming bear in the downtown. “IF something active is going on, that’s where this would really come in handy,” said Gill.

Enrollment in the system is free. The Nixle system is also free for the Ayer Police Department to use. Nixle-posted comments will also flow into the Ayer Police Department Facebook page.

Visit Nixle.com or look for the Nixle link on the Ayer Police Department website within the town’s website, www.ayer.ma.us.

It’s another tool in the department’s arsenal, said Gill. “We’re looking for any avenues to help get messages out to the public to keep the place safe.”

Gill added that for those who sign up for the Nixle alerts, “their information isn’t given out or sold to anybody. It’s used strictly for this purpose.”

— Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.