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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Sign up for SIREN

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Click to jump to: General | Signing Up | Alerts | Privacy


General 

What is Tompkins County SIREN?

SIREN is Tompkins County’s official emergency alert and notification system and is also used by the City of Ithaca and other local towns and villages. SIREN stands for Safety & Incident Real-Time Emergency Notifications. This system is used to send alerts to the public with critical information and during emergencies. SIREN is a free service that allows you to sign up online to receive customized alerts via text message, email, and voice message.  

In addition to emergency alerts, you can also choose to receive additional community notifications based on your interests or location. These include notifications about severe weather, safety, health, utility disruptions, major traffic incidents, construction, and more. This service is provided by the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response at no direct cost to the public; however, message and data rates may apply. 

The system’s name, SIREN – in addition to being an acronym – is a reference to the sirens from Greek mythology, specifically from Odysseus’ return to Ithaca. 

Why should I sign-up for SIREN? 

When emergencies happen, you can be the first to know. In addition to emergency notifications this system is used to share critical information with the public in our community. Tompkins County and local municipalities use this system to send official, real-time alerts to the public with information about potentially life-saving actions they may need to take to keep themselves and their families safe. By signing up for SIREN you are taking a large step toward improving your personal safety and the safety of our community. 

How does it work? 

When there is critical information that needs to be shared widely or an emergency occurs that meets the criteria for sending out an alert to the public, local officials or emergency dispatchers will gather the necessary information and push out an alert to the affected area. Alerts may be sent out community-wide to everyone who has opted-in to the system, or to a specific area or neighborhood for more localized events. 

SIREN alerts are sent via SMS text message, email, and/or voice message. An archive of alerts is available on www.tompkinscountyny.gov/siren 

How much does it cost? 

This public service is provided by the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response at no direct cost to the public; however, message and data rates may apply depending on your provider and phone services. 

Can you guarantee that I will receive notification if I register? 

While SIREN uses a vendor called RAVE Mobile Safety, widely regarded as an excellent system and used by governments and organizations across the country, we cannot guarantee that you will receive notification in all cases. Disasters and emergencies can be unpredictable, and notification is dependent on external providers such as your wireless carrier or email delivery service and are often outside of Tompkins County or your local municipality’s control. SIREN uses several means of communications to try to ensure that should any one communications method, technology, or delivery option be unavailable to reach residents, other methods will be used to improve the likelihood that citizens will see the message.

Relevant emergency alerts and an archive of alerts including is available on the Tompkins County home page and is based on alerts sent through the SIREN system. 


Signing up 

How do I sign-up for SIREN? 

Signing up for SIREN is easy! Go to alerts.smart911.com or www.tompkinscountyny.gov/siren and register your contact information. 
You may have been previously signed up for Swift911 alerts, we are migrating your account to this new system but you will need to update how you would prefer to receive alerts (voice, text, email) and/or location.  

Who can sign-up for SIREN?

SIREN is available to anyone who lives, works, travels through, or visits Tompkins County, City of Ithaca, and other local municipal communities. The address for your account preferences can be your home location, work location, or any other location you care about. 

I don’t own a computer – who can help me sign-up for SIREN?

If you do not have a computer, you can: 

  • Text SIREN to 67283 from a mobile phone 

  • Visit your local library to sign up online for SIREN on an accessible computer.  

  • Call 2-1-1 (1-877-211-8667) and someone in our local help line will assist you.  

  • Contact your local city, town, or village official. 


Alerts 

What types of alerts will I receive? 

Mass notifications and emergency alerts are sent 24/7 when there is an immediate threat to life and/or property. In addition to emergency alerts, you can also choose to receive customizable community notifications. These include notifications about: 

  • Severe weather 

  • Safety risks 

  • Health risks 

  • Transportation disruption 

  • Special event information  

  • Test messages. 

Can I call the alert phone number back or reply back to the email? 

You are not able to reply to texts or emails sent by SIREN. Voice messages provide a dial-back number to replay an alert message.  

To provide feedback or ask questions about the system you may contact the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response at 607-257-3888. 

If you are experiencing an emergency contact 9-1-1. 

When will I start receiving alerts? 

Once you have signed up online at alerts.smart911.com or www.tompkinscountyny.gov/siren and confirmed your contact information within the system, you will begin receiving alerts. 

How do I update or remove my notification preferences and contact information used by SIREN? 

Follow the below steps to change your Alert preferences (for example, to reduce the number of messages of a certain type, or to change the contacts used for each kind of message): 

  1. Go to the login page (https://www.smart911.com/smart911/ref/login.action?pa=tompkinscountyny) for Alerts powered by Tompkins County SIREN. 

  1. Login using your SIREN username and password (If you’ve forgotten these, follow the instructions on the page under “Forgot Username or Password?”) 

  1. Once signed in, click the ‘Preferences’ tab at the top 

  1. Under ‘Notification Preferences’, you can make changes to both the phone numbers and email addresses on which you want to receive Alerts powered by Tompkins County SIREN by clicking or unclicking the checkboxes 

  1. You can also choose what alerts you want to receive and the method you wish to receive them by (text, voice, email) 

  1. For example, if you wish to turn off all messages regarding Construction Updates, simply uncheck the box to the left of “Construction Updates” 

  1. If you wish instead only to receive emails for Construction notifications, instead uncheck the “Text” and/or “Voice” choices, so that only “Email” remains checked 

How often will I receive alerts? 

The frequency for which you receive alerts depends on the addresses you provide and the types of alerts you select to receive as well as the frequency of critical information and actual emergencies. Emergency alerts will only be sent when there is an immediate threat to life and/or property. Community notifications will be sent when the criteria for sending an alert are met. 

This system is not intended to bombard you with information. Your local governments will only send you alerts about the information you select to receive. To change your alert settings, login to https://www.smart911.com/smart911/ref/login.action?pa=tompkinscountyny or  smart911.com and edit your preferences. 

Who sends the alerts from SIREN? 

Tompkins County dispatchers at the Emergency Communications Center will send alerts when requested by local public safety agencies. Local municipalities (City of Ithaca, towns and villages) will also use this system to notify residents of pertinent information related to road closures, water main breaks, parking regulations, street cleaning and weather-related closing and interruptions. 

How does the SIREN system respond to busy signals or no-answer situations? 

If a call completes and is sent to your answering machine or voice mail system, a message is left. If a phone call is not answered or busy, the system redials your number several times. We recommend that you sign up to receive messages via SMS text and/or email in addition to voice messages.  


Privacy and Contact Information 

Will my information be disclosed or shared? 

No, your information is private and will not be used or distributed in any manner. The information that you provide is exempt from public disclosure and will be used for emergency purposes only. 

What precautions are taken to protect personal contact information stored in the SIREN system? 

Personal information provided to SIREN is private and only used to notify you for official Tompkins County and other local municipal communications and to support our emergency services. 

Your information is not used for marketing purposes and will not be sold to telemarketers or data-mining organizations. A variety of “opt-in” mechanisms are available to ensure you are getting just the messages you want to receive, delivered via the devices and communications modes that you choose. 

SIREN utilizes the highest standards in physical and computer security technologies and conducts regular audits to ensure all information is kept secure. Privacy policies are also outlined in the Terms and Conditions you review when you sign up to receive SIREN notifications.