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Another Irene Lesson: Courts Need Emergency Alert System

Irene has come and gone. If you weren’t lucky enough to maintain power through the storm but had court appearances scheduled for Monday morning, in addition to wondering how much of the items in the refrigerator would go bad, one question may have weighed heavily on your mind, “are the courts open on Monday?”   For me, this meant I spent a large percent of my iPhone’s battery charge refreshing the Connecticut Judicial Branch’s home page hourly for updates  on court closings or delayed openings.  Not cool. I would have rather used my battery life to get minute by minute  hurricane updates from Paul Piorek.

Irene and the many snow storms we face every winter make it abundantly clear that our judicial system could use a statewide subscription based alert system to notify individuals via email or text message about court closings and delays.  Currently, the Connecticut Judicial Branch posts closings and delays on their website homepage as they are available.  In the event of a snow storm or hurricane, you’re stuck refreshing the homepage until the news is posted.

But hurricanes and snow storms aren’t the only events that cause closings.  Courts routinely close due to site specific issues (power outages and water main breaks) that you may not be aware of until you arrive at the courthouse.  If you travel a long distance, being alerted via email or text message in advance can save valuable time and money.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has a similar system which alerts subscribers via email of any statewide rail or highway traffic incidents.  The service is available at no cost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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