June 24, 2009 By Wayne Hanson
When a train carrying tank cars of ethanol derailed Friday and caught fire in Winnebago County, Ill., officials decided to use the county's emergency notification system to warn residents rather than newly installed sirens. The reason, according to an article in the Rockford Register-Star, was to avoid confusion and to limit the warning to a smaller area than the sirens' three-mile radius.
If residents thought the siren was for a tornado, for example, they might hole up in their basements, rather than vacating the area. The sirens have three warning messages: A continuous tone means severe weather or tornado. A six-second rise and fall is the signal for a terrorist attack, and the evacuation tone rises for 16 seconds and falls for 8 seconds.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.