The city of Madison has started a text-alert system that officials said would be used to notify residents on their cell phones of time-sensitive news such as weather warnings, boil-water advisories and pool closings.

To sign up for the message system, text "MADISON1" to the number 36000.

There is no cost for residents to sign up or to receive text messages, the city said in a press release announcing the text-alert program Wednesday, but added that people whose cell phone plan does not include unlimited text messaging might have to pay text messaging rates through their cell phone carrier.

The city will use the text alerts to send out "important information and updates on city government almost instantaneously," the press release said.

"This is simply one more way that we can get information to citizens quickly and easily," Mayor Damon Welch said in the press release. "Through this system, our new Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as the traditional radio and print, we hope to be able to keep an even larger percentage of our citizens safe, informed and up-to-date."

Also on Wednesday, the city rolled out its social media effort. The city's Facebook page has been reactivated, a Twitter feed has been created, videos are being uploaded on YouTube and flikr will be used to post pictures.

The social media pages are accessible by computer and by many mobile phones and apps, the city said in a press release announcement.

"City government plans to be active in using these pages to give information, ask for input as well as promote business and other local events," the press release said.

"Whether we want to believe it or not, this is how many people communicate in today's world - especially young people," Welch said in the press release. "By utilizing these technologies, we will be on the front line of being able to more effectively communicate with our citizens no matter how they get the information about city government. Even better, using these types of media have low to no cost to the user or the city."

In addition to four social media sites, the city website, www.madison-in.gov, will be the central place for information about city departments, the press release said. The website needs updating, which will be done by the end of spring, the press release said.

Users of social media can find Madison pages by searching for cityofmadisonin at twitter.com, facebook.com, youtube.com and flikr.com.