Pennsylvania launches alert system to warn stranded drivers

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania will begin alerting drivers when crashes and other emergencies are shutting down the turnpike or other highways for a very long time.

The alert system, 511PAConnect, was developed after more than 500 drivers were stranded for hours on the turnpike in western Pennsylvania during a January blizzard.

Gov.Tom Wolf said when PennDOT or the Pennsylvania Turnpike become aware of a potential long-term closure, PEMA will issue a location-based alert to drivers in the area; the same way police issue Amber Alerts for missing children.

Drivers who receive the alert may register for automatic text or phone call updates. Once the highway has reopened, drivers who registered will automatically be unsubscribed.

“This system will only be used for emergencies that will last for a sustained period,” PEMA Director Richard D. Flinn Jr. said “It is important for motorists to recognize that the system will only work in areas with cell phone service, and that this is not a substitute for calling 911 if you have an actual emergency in your vehicle.”

State officials said 511PAConnect is the first initiative of its kind to link directly to a targeted group of travelers impacted by or approaching a large-scale emergency.

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