Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa's new phone alert system replaces Reverse 911

TAMPA — Next time there's flooding, a chemical spill or a nearby hostage situation, Tampa dispatchers will be able to notify those affected within minutes.

The new Alert Tampa system, which launches today, will even allow dispatchers to text or call local residents on their unlisted cell phones, as long as residents enter their numbers online in the city's system.

Tampa officials promise they won't release the numbers to marketers or anyone else. They'll use the numbers only to alert people about events such as severe weather, closed roads, boil-water notices and crime patterns, Tampa police communications manager Donovan Maginnis said.

"It's really about getting critical information to people really fast," he said.

Previously, the department relied on the Reverse 911 system and could get out only 23 calls at a time. Tampa's phone list was outdated and didn't include most cell phone numbers, Maginnis said.

He said it's crucial for dispatchers to have cell numbers because many people use their cell phones exclusively.

With Alert Tampa, dispatchers will be able to pull up a map of the city and draw a diagram around the affected area. The people within the perimeter will receive a call that features a pre-recorded message.

"We're not going to create spam with a whole bunch of messages," Maginnis said. "It will only be stuff that they need to know."

The city's emergency management coordinator, Chauncia Willis, said Alert Tampa also will be used internally. For example, if severe weather causes large tree limbs to fall, the city will be able to call all the employees who are certified to work with chain saws, so they can clean up streets quickly.

"This is a huge deal for the city of Tampa because it's going to help the residents and businesses in so many ways," she said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

>>Fast facts

Sign up for

Alert Tampa

To subscribe to the service, go to


Tampa's new phone alert system replaces Reverse 911 05/20/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 20, 2010 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Encounters: Trial by storm for a rookie principal


    DUNEDIN — When he nodded off to sleep, the hallway lights outside Michael Vasallo's office were on, so the sudden darkness woke him.

    The glow of his desk phone dimmed.

    Michael Vasallo, right, the first-year principal at Dunedin Highland Middle School, talks with the school's head plant operator Clint Case near the back-up generator on campus. The generator failed just as Hurricane Irma passed through Pinellas County, making for a stressful night. The experience made Vasallo long to return to his regular job, educating middle schoolers. [COLEEN WRIGHT   |   Times]

  2. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree


    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  3. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  4. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.