More and more residents are moving away from traditional landlines. Phone numbers and email addresses are tied to physical addresses.
"Because texts are limited we try to keep it as short and to the point as we can," McElhaney said.
The messages could be area specific, like Monday's where a hand drawn map was used to target recipients, or the dispatcher could pinpoint an address and use it to create a range, McElhaney said.
Swift Reach isn't specific to violent issues. Metro used it in the past to alert residents in the areas surrounding the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute following the August 2008 explosion. It also was used in last summer's derecho to notify residents of Appalachian Power's estimated service restoration times.
He said it's used often for severe weather or to alert people of a power outage.
McElhaney said the calls don't always go to residents but in some cases are specific to emergency responders and those in key leadership roles, for example an emergency at Yeager Airport.
While the service isn't available outside of the county, those with cellphones who commute can use it to get alerts if they use their work address or another Kanawha County address.
A number of people with cellphones and unlisted telephone numbers have opted in to the service, but McElhaney hopes more will do the same.
To sign up visit www.metro911.org and click on "Sign up for Emergency Notifications by Phone, Text and Email."
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.cr...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.