The National Community Texting Programme Agreed Guidelines For Setting up A Community Text Alert Area

As Launched By Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan On the 24th of September 2013

Getting Started

All relevant forms can be found on this page of the Muintir na Tíre website

  • Ensure that your Community Alert Group is established and affiliated to Muintir Na Tire. If unsure, Phone Muintir Na Tire head office 062-51163.
  • It is important that your Community Alert Group define and agree the geographical area where they wish the proposed Community Text Alert Area to take place.
  • Ensure that the Liaison Garda is consulted and included in relation to the intention of the Community Alert Group to establish a Community Alert Text Alert Area.
  • Ensure that the District Superintendent is asked to assist and support the intention of the Community Alert Group to roll out A Community Text Alert Initiative in their Geographic Area (Part of the agreed Community Crime Prevention Programmes just launched Feb 2013. Page 9 (iv) (b)
  • Assist in co-producing (Gardaí & Community) a locally owned and devised Community Crime Prevention Plan to support and direct Neighbourhood Watch and Community Alert each year.
  • Ensure that your group has adequate insurance cover. A exclusive offer from BHP Insurance available to Community Alert Groups affiliated to Muintir na Tíre is outlined below
  • It is advisable to have at least 8 to 10 members of your Community Alert Group who are willing and committed to calling to all the households in your geographic area. The greater the number of households in your geographic area, then the greater the number of volunteers will be required to ensure that every household is called upon in a timely manner. 8 to 10 members of your Community Alert Group should be able to facilitate calling to approximately 300 households. It is advisable to have 2 people from your Community Alert Group to call to each household, it is best if it were 1 male and 1 female visiting.

Information to be given out to each household.

Hand out to each household a form which they fill in allowing them to agree to become part of the Community Text Alert initiative. (See sample letter). Each Community Alert Group should edit this sample letter as they see fit. They may only participate in the Community Text Alert Initiative, if they sign up with the letter of consent.

Feedback from community groups who launched the Community Text Alert as a pilot programme were conscious of whether it was wise to ask older people living alone in isolated rural areas to sign up for the Text Alert programme, as if they were to receive a Text Alert on a dark winter’s evening that it could increase their fear of crime rather than reduce it.

One community group dealt with this challenge in an innovative and positive way. They asked the neighbouring households to allow their mobile phone number to be printed on a specially designed fridge sticker, where up to 6 phone numbers with the neighbouring household’s name beside the number. When members of the committee were visiting the households, they called to the older person’s household and gave them the list of neighbourly phone numbers.

They encouraged the older person not to hesitate in contacting any of the people on the list should they require e.g. a bag of coal brought in from the outside shed, a visit to the local post office/shop/doctor or even a hospital appointment.

The feedback  since this initiative has been rolled out, is that it has been a huge success. The above may be a common sense and wise approach in meeting real everyday needs for our aging rural dwellers.

When calling to each household, it is an ideal opportunity to establish the entitlement of older people to have a monitored alarm installed in their home, but who presently do not have one and are entitled to one. An individual from the community may not apply for the pendant alarm, it can only be applied for by an established Community Group. Information about the monitored alarm scheme can be found on www.environ.ie/en/Community/SeniorsAlert

One member of the Community Alert Group agrees to take responsibility for the file containing the names and addresses of the signed up members who wish to be part of the Community Text Alert Initiative, this is a Data Protection requirement. The Community Alert Group forwards the PHONE NUMBERS ONLY of the signed up members, who wish to be part of the Text Alert initiative, to the Service Provider (the service provider is the phone company that the group decide to use to send out the texts from the 24 hour Garda Station).

Signage

All Community Text Alert Signs and Poles (powder coated blue) shall be ordered directly from Muintir na Tíre Head Office, Tipperary Town. Tel: (062) 51163. This is an agreed element of the National Community Texting Programme.

This is to comply with the Department of the Environment’s directive to each local authority, that all signage for community alert schemes shall meet the specification for the construction of traffic signs as issued by this department. It is also to comply with the agreement of An Garda Síochána that Muintir na Tíre have the sole authority to use the Garda logo on all signs relating to this programme.

For the new National Community Texting Programme, the costs of signs include VAT and delivery and the costs of the poles include VAT but will need to be collected from the suppliers office in Mayfield, Cashel, Co. Tipperary. The strategic location of Community Text Alert signs are agreed in consultation with a member from An Garda Síochána and members from the established Community Alert Group.

Please note that Community Alert Members MUST NOT ERECT THE SIGNS THEMSELVES (unless they receive written permission from the local authority to do so. It is important that the written permission letter is filed by a committee member for record purposes).
This is the agreed function of the Local Authority and once erected it is their insurance which indemnifies them into the future.
So Community Alert Groups should at an early stage make contact with the Area Engineer from their Local Authority. It can take a period of time from the initial contact with the local area engineer from the roads division, to the erection of the signs. So, at the earliest opportunity the agreed location of the community text alert signs, should be mapped in the following way:

  • A map showing the existing community alert poles, if any, should be marked in blue.The number of blue coded signs should be listed as to their number and also the intention of the group to retain the existing poles and replace the old community alert signs with the new text alert signs as illustrated below.
  • The location and number of new proposed signs and poles should be marked on the map in red.
  • The above mapping of Community Text Alert signs and their strategic locations are agreed in consultation with a member of An Garda Síochána and members of the established Community Alert Group.

Community Text Alert Signs are made to a designated standard as follows 12g Aluminium panel of 600mm by 400mm with a non slip bracket to affix to a 75mm diameter pole. The text for the sign should read:

Signs should be on a White Non-Reflective background with Blue lettering.
(Any deviation of the above specification is likely to result in both the Dept. of the Environment and the Local Authority seeking their removal)

Costs of Signs and Poles

The price of each Sign is €50 inclusive of VAT and delivery. All orders are to be made directly through Regina Ryan at Muintir na Tíre on (062) 51163 or rryan@muintir.ie where they will be sent to our supplier to produce a proof of the artwork. The proof will then be sent back to the Community Text Alert Group by our supplier for approval before proceeding with the manufacturing. The standard delivery time for the signs to arrive to the Community is 5 working days after the artwork has been approved.

The cost of each pole is €55 inclusive of VAT.

If using existing poles, they will need to be cleaned, primed and have the correct paint (Garda Blue) applied to them. The code for this paint can be found in the Community Alert Text Alert Sign Specification document below.

Service Provider Information:

There are several organisations providing the required SMS service, including BeAlert.

How the Community Text Alert Will Work:

The PHONE NUMBER of the local district 24 hour Garda Station will be located on all newly erected Community Alert signs as above.

Therefore all members of that geographic area are encouraged and supported in reporting any activity they deem to be of concern to them by using the phone number for the Gardaí on the signs.

A proactive structure is agreed at Garda Superintendent Level that all calls received will be acted upon in a timely manner.

Should the phone call to the Garda District Station be of interest to an Garda Síochána, then they have the ability to contact the contracted Service Provider who can then send out a Text Alert to a number of Community Alert Groups who have a Database of phone numbers in place.

The wording of the text is agreed between An Garda Síochána and the contracted Service Provider and can send out the text in a timely manner.Common sense will prevail as to how late An Garda Síochána will decide upon a Community Text Alert being sent out.

It can also afford an Garda Síochána the resource of a unique database that can be activated at their discretion to help to stay one step ahead of crime in rural Communities.

  • A register will be maintained at each Garda Station where information from the various participating Community Alert Groups and information/alerts requests from the Gardai to the Communities will be recorded.
  • The Garda Station will be available to respond to all phone call from members of the Community.
  • In the event that the vehicle is not of interest to an Garda Síochána then no further action needs to happen i.e. no text message will be sent out.
  • It is of vital importance that messages about suspicious vehicles /persons are notified to the Gardai prior to any alert message going out to the community as Gardai may have intelligence that would indicate it would be dangerous to approach some criminals or there vehicles.
  • There may be times when the text looking for information is sent by An Garda Síochána to the members of the community who have signed up to the scheme and again this will happen through contact with the Service Provider who then sends the group text out to all members.
  • The cost of sending the texts for a year will depend on the number of texts being sent to each community text alert group. As of October 2013, the cost per text is around 6cents. To offset the costs of new signs and poles and also the costs of texts themselves, each community can edit the sample letter that will go out to each household.
  • Groups may decide that a once off donation is their preferred choice to cover initial costs. This might include texting costs for 1-2 years but there will need to be some form of modest fundraiser after that to cover ongoing insurance and text costs.
  • Some groups look for a one off contribution of €20 per household to get started, and then hold an annual fundraiser in their community after that.

The feedback we have received as to the benefits of the Text Alert System include:

  • Enhanced crime prevention status for Community Alert with improved community/Garda participation and joint practical activities
  • Reduction in crime
  • Community feel safer
  • Increased communication amongst local residents via the text system
  • Increased communication between An Garda Síochána and the community
  • Better relations between An Garda Síochána and the community
  • Gardaí are now able to get information to the community instantly
  • Gardaí can canvass hundreds of subscribers in an instant should they require information

The above proposal embraces the following elements of the MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN MUINTIR NA TIRE AND AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA AS PARTNERS OF THE COMMUNITY ALERT PROGRAMME. That Community Alert will promote the best quality of life for people, and particularly older people in Rural Communities by:

  • Crime Prevention
  • Neighbourliness and Self Reliance
  • General Community Safety and Well – being.

Community Text Alert Initiatives will also help to foster and promote the agreed objectives of the Memorandum of Understanding:

  • The promotion of measures to reassure people living in rural Ireland particularly the elderly.
  • To raise the level of awareness amongst all people of the need for greater social inclusiveness including crime prevention measures.
  • To foster greater collaboration between the community and An Garda Síochána.

Summary of the findings from the various different focus groups and pilot areas in relation to the Community Text Alert Programme

    • That a precautionary principle approach would underpin this collaborative partnership at every level of its design and implementation.
    • That a community text alert initiative can only have legitimacy and creditability if it is born out of an existing active community alert structure.
    • The partnership between Muintir na Tíre and An Garda Síochána has worked positively in implementing the Community Alert Programme for the past 25 years and a similar partnership will ensure the success of the proposed Community Texting Initiative.
    • There is merit in a proactive partnership between relevant community groups and their local 24hour Garda District Station, particularly where the local Garda Station has closed.
    • That community volunteers were uncomfortable about taking responsibility to hold a phone for the purpose of Text Alert within their geographic area. The reasons listed for this concern;
      a. Poor network coverage
      b. The sense that while holding the phone for a given period that they as volunteers were on call 24/7.
      c. That they may become a target from local individuals who view them as a “snitch” should that individual be involved in criminal activity.For the above reasons, no Community Text Alert Initiative Programme will involve the holding of a mobile phone by any member of the committee from the Community Alert Group.
    • That the strategic location of Text Alert signs mattered and that their location should be jointly agreed by An Garda Síochána Liaison Officer and members of the Community Alert Area.
    • That the phone number of the local 24hour Garda Station will be located on all newly erected Community Alert signs.
    • That the pole supporting the Community Text Alert signage would be painted in the Garda blue because so many rural dwellers associate it with their local Garda Station.
    • That community groups want some version of the text alert system to get underway, do its crime-prevention job ASAP and also bring the community to better know its neighbours for mutual alert and community benefits in the future.

Insurance for Community Alert Groups

We strongly recommend all Community Alert Groups be insured. Such insurance usually covers items such as public liability for meetings, erection of Text alert signs, libel/slander, installation of panic alarms, and other light services and visits for the elderly. To ensure it is feasible for groups to be insured, we have arranged standard policies with two insurers which are available at a very low (compared to other insurance) price. The companies are:

BHP Insurances Ltd – Nick Ryan | 01 6299927 | nryan@bhpinsurance.ie | www.bhpinsurance.ie

JLT Ireland – Keith Heffernan | 01 2026041 | 087 061 7543 | www.jlt.ie

Further information is available from your local Community Alert Development Officer.

 

 

Further Information

For further information about Community Alert Text Alert, contact your local Community Alert Development Officers or Muintir na Tíre Head Office.

For further information about the Community Alert Text Alert guidelines, road and household signs, please click on the relevant links below:

Click here to download a copy of the Community Alert Text Alert Structure
Click here to download a copy of the Sample Community Alert Text Alert form
Click here to download a copy of the Community Alert Text Alert Sign brochure
Click here to download a copy of the Community Alert Text Alert Sign Specification
Click here to download a copy of the Community Alert Text Alert Sign Dimensions
BHP Insurance Community Alert Groups Brochure as of May 2020, is available here.