TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Technology helped Town of Tonawanda Police get the word out to neighbors as a dangerous situation unfolded involving a man with a gun who set fire to his own home. But that police department isn't the only agency using new technologies to reach out to people.
Tonawanda residents say they are impressed with how police handled the Fries Road situation on Monday, making sure that homeowners and students stayed safe. Lt. Nick Bado says he personally knows many people who followed the police department's Twitter and Facebook accounts to get real-time updates during the potentially dangerous situation.
Lt. Bado says one detective is responsible for updating the department's website, which automatically updates their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Those outreach efforts provided comfort for parents with children in Ken-Ton schools, which were locked down while officers searched for 60-year-old Joseph Hollywood.
After Monday's frightening situation, Lt. Bado says they may train more people to send out those updates. Police also reached neighbors through the reverse 911 system, to tell them what to do.
Tammy McAndrew says she was called and heard a message saying, "Area residents, if you live within a quarter of a mile of 163 Fries, report to your basements until further notice."
More and more local departments are utilizing new technology, both in developing situations and day-to-day investigations.
Amherst Police have increasingly used social media in recent months to catch small-time crooks. They say it's effective, but doesn't completely take the place of other tactics.
Officer Craig Johnson said, "We would also use the traditional means of notification for any incident we have. But that's just another avenue if we have information to disseminate to the public."
Buffalo recently rolled out the Code Red program for notifying residents in emergency situations. It's a service Lancaster has used for 10 years.
On Tuesday, Lancaster sent a test call to thousands of residents to update its calling list.
Disaster Coordinator Ronald Rozler said, "It could go out for any type of weather emergencies, any type of natural disasters, chemical leaks, or obviously a police incident where we want people in place or evacuate an area."
Lancaster resident Keith Minko appreciates that agencies are embracing all forms of communication.
"You have to be on everything. You have to be on the phone. You have to be on social media. If you could send smoke signals and that gets one person saved, that's what you have to do," he said.
Code Red works by making an initial call during an emergency. If there is no answer or the call goes to voicemail, the system will call back twice more.
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