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McCandless reaches more residents with widespread communication, reducing calls to town office

The Town of McCandless

McCandless, PA

The Town of McCandless recognized the need for a more effective method of widespread communication with residents. By adopting a mass notification system, McCandless was able to reach more residents and reduce calls to the town office.

Topics Covered

Transparency
Civic Technology

Cost

Initial: 5 Thousand USD

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2017

Gov Champion

Public Information Office

Problem Addressed

McCandless, PA was looking to improve resident communication and engagement by making access to alerts, general information, and scheduled events easier and more convenient.

In the past, McCandless residents needed to attend council meetings, call town officials or check the website frequently to learn about critical information, town happenings, and events. This was not an effective way for residents to stay informed and did not support relaying time-sensitive information. Often, something like an unforeseen garbage pickup delay would trigger a high volume of calls to the town office.  There was no way of broadcasting real-time, helpful information to residents.  For town officials, these calls often consumed time answering repetitive questions.   

In addition to being able to effectively deliver useful information to residents, the town wanted a way to raise awareness and participation in scheduled events and meetings. The town wanted to increase resident engagement, whether that be participation in town meetings or recreational events like outdoor fitness classes and movies in the park.  Taken a step further, certain types of events would benefit from the ability to draw participants in from surrounding communities.

As final criteria, the town wanted to be able to push updates and notifications directly to residents to make accessing the information as easy and convenient as possible. Residents would not need to be responsible for periodically checking for information, but would rather receive the information.  In addition to making resident consumption of town information easier, it would provide a method for the police department to prioritize public safety by promptly pushing out escalated, time-sensitive emergency alerts.

Solutions Used

McCandless adopted a mass notification system to improve communication with residents, making it easy and convenient to stay up to date on town activities and developments. 

McCandless staff can now quickly notify all residents about things like planned utility outages and holiday trash pickups using Savvy Citizen. Access to the information is not limited to the few that attend town council meetings, call town officials for updates, or happen to check the website. In addition, the town can now share a calendar of events. The system’s calendar provides the flexibility of being able to update residents on new events, changes, or cancellations. If desired, it can also notify residents from neighboring communities that follow McCandless.

Residents can conveniently receive the information through the Savvy Citizen mobile app, text messages, or emails. As an added benefit and time-saver, events and notifications entered into the system automatically appear on the town website, ensuring consistent information across all channels.

In the event of an emergency, a notification can be marked urgent and sent immediately regardless of the time of day. This change is significant for the town’s police department which can better uphold public safety by sending emergency alerts to residents. The town even has the option to target residents in close proximity to a location or within custom-defined zones.

McCandless can also increase resident engagement as a result of reaching a greater proportion of the town population. By improving communication with its residents via notifications about town meetings and recreational events, the town is more directly engaging with residents and strengthening that relationship. With better-informed residents, McCandless can use feedback to aid in future decision-making and engage a greater and more representative proportion of residents.

“The power of communicating information in a timely and efficient manner to keep our residents informed and safe is our first priority,” said John Bojarski, Public Information Officer for the Town.“Savvy Citizen is a reliable, flexible, and easy-to-use app and a great addition to our existing communication channels.”

Outcomes

1

McCandless was able to improve communication with its residents, reaching a greater proportion than it had previously with other communication channels like town council meetings

2

Residents can now more easily become involved with town developments by keeping apprised of public meetings and agendas

3

Calls for information and complaints to the town office were reduced, freeing up time for town staff to reallocate to providing other services

4

Event turnout increased, creating opportunities for further resident engagement

5

McCandless is better prepared for emergencies with a reliable way for the police department to reach and notify residents

Something Unique

The Town of McCandless received the Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence for its efforts to improve communication with residents.

Who Should Consider

Communities of any size looking to efficiently and effectively inform residents about planned events, town meetings, emergencies, and other information through a mass notification and emergency alert system.

Other Recognition

Winner, Governor's Awards for Local Government Excellence

April 2021

Government Project Team

  • John Bojarski, Public Information Officer

Last Updated

May 18th, 2022

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