RIT alumnus answers 9-1-1 call in Big Apple

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Brett Whitney ’07 makes sure New York City residents stay updated.

On any given day, someone might receive an e-mail, text message, phone call, Twitter post or an RSS feed alerting to a power outage in Brooklyn, a film shoot taking place in Manhattan on 48th Street, or an AMBER alert of a child abducted in another borough.

Welcome to Notify NYC—“What you need to know, when you need to know it.” It’s the official source for information about everything from water main breaks and air quality advisories to traffic tie-ups, school closings, citizen protests, major fires or bomb scares.

Since June 2008, RIT alumnus Brett Whitney has worked with the NYC Office of Emergency Management, the coordination agency for all emergencies across the Big Apple.

“As the program manager for the Emergency Public Notification office, I’m responsible for emergency public notification, the communication of anything that affects the standard way of life within the city,” explains the Brockport, N.Y., native. “Before I came on board, New York City’s broad ability to reach out and tell people about emergencies was really after the fact through press releases, major TV news networks or radio broadcasts.”

And now?

“Any city agency can reach out to residents who have registered for information via e-mail, text message or phone, or proactively via the Emergency Alert System and emergency television and radio briefing sites.”

Whitney started his career as a consultant at Corning, and after earning his FastTrack MBA degree in technology management from RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business in 2007, was employed at EMC2 as a project manager on New York City’s $2 billion program to upgrade the E911 system. For the past 12 years he has also served as a non-commissioned officer in the 198th Army Band located in Rochester.

According to Whitney, the Big Apple had notification systems prior to 9/11, but following the final 9/11 Commission Report in 2004, there was a significant investment to fill the communications gap. A pilot system was launched in 2007, and this is where Whitney came in: He consolidated the alerting technology into a single office, expanded the notification pilot citywide, improved the City’s Emergency Alert System and integrated the many new technologies, including Twitter.

“Our mass communication system has become an example of 21st century emergency notification and a model for cities across North America,” he says.

Attention NYC alumni

Get important information about emergency events and city services by signing up for Notify NYC at nyc.gov/notifynyc.