LANSING — Residents in Michigan are now able to find out up-to-date information from nearby prisons thanks to a new system being utilized by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The department recently adopted Nixle, a mass communications platform, to allow it to send real-time alerts via text, e-mail, or social media to anyone who signs up. The alerts will allow the public to find out right away why prison sirens — which usually merely signal monthly drills — are going off.

“In the unfortunate event of an emergency, where we were needing to get information out, and we were sounding our alarm because maybe a prisoner was missing, or maybe there was the rare instance of escape or something along those lines, we could also send that out using the same way. ‘That siren you just heard means that this has happened,'” said Chris Gautz, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Alerts about other events in state prisons, such as changes in visiting hours, could help those with incarcerated family members or friends. The system could also be used to aid local entities if needed.

“There would be an opportunity, too, for local communities, local municipalities — maybe they don’t have a system like this — this could be something that if they were to contact us in the event of an emergency, it’s a service that we can have the ability to offer them as well,” Gautz added.

The Department of Corrections is hoping a large number of individuals, schools, and other entities will sign up for the alerts through Nixle. The service is free, and you can sign up by texting your zip code to 888777, or by visiting and selecting the correctional facility in your area to register via the Nixle Widget.