Pennsylvania definitely got its money’s worth with their new, trapped-traveler emergency communications tool, used during yesterday’s nor’easter. The tool is called 511 PAConnect and it is something that every Pennsylvania driver should know about. This communication tool allows response teams to communicate via automated phone calls or text messages directly with motorists who are trapped in a roadway backup. 511PAConnect also provides emergency crews a clearer picture of which travelers are in these trapped vehicles, and where these travelers are, so that they can better plan for their use of resources.
Yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf activated the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center. The CRCC is currently staffed with personnel from PEMA, PA State Police, the Public Utility Commission, PA Turnpike, and the departments of Military and Veterans Affairs, and Transportation. PEMA and PennDOT then had the 511 PAConnect activated to communicate with all the motorists yesterday who were sitting in gridlock due to the storm. 511 PAConnect is not an app and requires no download.
Here’s how it works . 511 PAConnect is only activated during prolonged, emergency roadway standstills. Once it is activated, PEMA will utilize it by sending push messages to all cell phones in that area. The purpose of this push message is to provide those impacted motorists with specific instructions on how to participate and receive further information throughout the incident. The motorists will be instructed to visit 511PAConnect.com for a quick registration of simply providing their phone number and selecting whether or not they wish to receive updates and other safety information. They will also be asked permission for the system to get their cell phone location ,which allows the incident response team to get a better picture of who is trapped and exactly where they are located in the que. The system does not request personal information. All phone numbers will be erased once the incident is closed. In addition, travelers that are approaching, but not yet trapped in the backup, may receive a push message before they reach the impacted area.