Getting the message out about a serious situation in his Calgary community took far too long, said Block Talk founder Michael Murray.
Murray, who volunteers with his Elbow Park community association, said a sensitive police situation two blocks away from his home on a Saturday morning in May 2017 wasn’t communicated to area residents until the following Tuesday. He said the clunky process of a community association email blast didn’t suffice for such emergent situations.
That event planted the seed for Block Talk, a location-specific, iOS app that users can post to from a community and have the message fanned out to other users who have followed that area’s information.
“If you follow communities where you live, where you work, where you play – and maybe where your children go to school or other communities in the area – you’ll be in the know on what communities matter to you,” said Murray.
The former corporate insurance agent left his job to do this full time when he saw the need for such a service, and the swift uptake in some Calgary communities. Murray says there are more than 2,600 users currently signed up to the system in just three months since its launch.
“There’s not an app out there that can alert us to serious situations in our neighbourhoods,” Murray said.
But, it’s not just for emerging situations, Murray said. Users can post a variety of content, from lost dogs to upcoming community events. He added that the Calgary Police have started experimenting with the app, posting community specific notes.
There are six channels where users can post: urgent safety alerts, non-urgent criminal activity, lost pets, lost persons, community association and blockboard.
Murray acknowledged that Facebook community groups have popped up in many neighbourhoods and have a similar function but added that not everyone’s on Facebook or they may be reluctant to be an active poster.
The free app is available in the App store. While only available on iOS right now, the Android version of the app is expected to be complete by the end of July.