Bend joins neighborhood social media site

City, police and fire use new platform NextDoor to alert neighborhoods

By Megan Kehoe / The Bulletin

When they were notified of a gas leak in a west-side neighborhood Monday morning, city of Bend communication officials went about letting the public know. They sent news releases, posted on the city website and Facebook page and tweeted.

They also put the information on NextDoor, a social media site that allowed them to target just the residents in the Northwest Riverside Boulevard neighborhood who were affected by the leak.

“There are so many different ways people get information today,” said Anne Aurand, community relations manager with the city. “People are still using the newspaper and watching TV, but some are getting all their news from Facebook or Twitter. This site is just another way to reach more people.”

In an effort to reach local residents who no longer use typical media avenues, the city last week joined NextDoor, a social networking site for neighborhoods.

The site, established in 2012, is geared toward bringing neighbors together through online interaction. It also serves as a community bulletin board of sorts where people can list missing pets and baby-sitting services or share restaurant recommendations.

Residents can join the site for free, though they must verify they live in the particular neighborhood to join that neighborhood’s community page.

NextDoor offers public agencies the chance to target residents from areas in the city.

Rather than blast everyone with a piece of news that affects a handful of people in a certain area, agencies can limit the information to certain neighborhoods.

Thirty-two Bend area neighborhoods are recognized on the site.

Joining the site has allowed the city to alert residents to hazards, road construction and city meetings. One post the city made about an upcoming urban growth boundary meeting prompted a response from a resident in the Orchard neighborhood, who thanked the city for posting the information.

“He said he made it to the meeting because of the post,” Aurand said. “In my mind, that’s a huge success.”

More than 770 Bendites are registered on NextDoor.com, said Aurand. That’s up by almost 100 from a week ago.

And although the city has joined the site, conversations between neighbors and member details are private and cannot be viewed by the city, said Aurand. City officials are able to respond only to residents who comment on a city posting.

Aurand said the city isn’t planning to use the site that often, as she doesn’t want to inundate users’ inboxes with city postings. She said she’s expecting to make about a post a week.

“The best use isn’t going to be from the city communications department,” Aurand said. “It’s going to be from police and fire.”

In addition to a select number of city officials, the Bend Police Department and Bend Fire and Rescue have access to the account.

“I think it will be most useful in the short term for letting people know about incidents,” said Battalion Chief Dave Howe of the fire department. “We’ll be able to expand as we go along.”

Howe said along with the city, the fire department is taking a cautious approach to the site in an effort not to swamp residents with information.

He said the department has used it once this week for the gas leak alert but would use it for similar incidents, such as chemical spills or fires in the area. He also said he could see the site being used by the department to provide neighborhoods with fire prevention tips.

Bend Police plans to use the site to send alerts when there is a rash of car break-ins, bike thefts or other criminal activity, said Lt. Nick Parker.

Parker said the site provides a unique opportunity to target residents.

“In this day and age, we all get multiple emails in our inboxes that we could do without,” Parker said. “There’s no reason to clutter someone’s email with information if they don’t care about it. So being able to target a specific area is a great benefit.”

NextDoor’s website says more than 35,000 neighborhoods across the country use the site.

Additionally, it says more than 160 cities and police departments have joined the site — for the same reasons as the city of Bend.

“If this can even get one more person to a city meeting, then I’m happy,” said Aurand.

— Reporter: 541-383-0354,

mkehoe@bendbulletin.com.