Archive for April, 2014


regional notification systemYou know those emergency broadcasting system messages you hear on the radio? The ones with the blaring siren and the lifesaving info about big storms and natural disasters? Well, there’s a new player in town that calls your cellphone when trouble comes knocking, and it’s called the Regional Notification System (RNS), but you have to sign up.

The RNS has some big 21st-century advantages over the ol’ emergency broadcasting system:

  • Obviously, it calls your cellphone when your life or your property is in danger, rather than hoping you happen to be listening to the radio or watching TV.
  • It notifies you if there’s an emergency near your home OR work. You can even register locations like your parents’ home or your kid’s daycare… although the additional locations feature appears to be unimplemented at this time.
  • Apparently the granularity of the alerts is much finer, allowing RNS to notify only the people directly affected by localized problems.

With more people cutting the cord to radio, cable, and broadcast TV, this means the information you need is a lot more likely to get to you. It could save your life.

Of course, we’re all paranoid now about giving out our cell numbers. Who gets this information? Will I be spammed every time somebody loses their dog?

Our answer is, “We don’t think so, tinfoilhatperson, but be an adult and take the miniscule risk.” First off, the RNS is run by the Capital Area Council of Governments, aka the City of Austin, Travis County, and other local governments, working together for public safety. They are not trying to sell you aluminum siding. Second, as mentioned in their FAQ, your information is safe. Only authorized public safety personnel can make notification messages. Third, if you get too many messages, you can go to their website and turn off notifications. Fourth, even iOS has solid tools now that let you block calls and texts. Honestly, folks, we give our phone numbers to that sketchy website that’s running the sweepstakes for free snuggies. We recommend you share info with your local police and fire services so they can save your bacon.

That’s our public safety alert for the day. Sign up at the link above, and be safe out there!

austin springtime

Springtime is here, Austin! Despite the best attempts of old man winter to still claw at our wee hours, the sprouts are sprouting and the mosquitoes are breeding. Damn them.

So dewinterize your air conditioners, limber up your repellents, and unthaw your sunscreen. It’s the good season.

You might also want to get your house checked for energy efficiency as summer hoves into view. Austin Energy offers rebates and incentives on a variety of tuneups like fridge replacement, programmable thermostats, air conditioners, and solar panels. And at the Austin libraries you can borrow Killawatt electricity gadgets that you can use to see which old appliances in your house are wheezing away your hard-earned cash.