Expect a call the next time an emergency threatens your neighborhood
Friday, March 07, 2014 9:00 PM
One of the comments we hear from time to time is, "I never heard the weather siren. Did it go off?"
What alerts do you want to receive?
The list is extensive including:
Informative law enforcement alerts
Informative fire department alerts
Information about public meetings
Traffic information such as road closures
Weather alerts (there are 69 possibilities including severe, wind, flood and winter)
Fire alerts (there are four fire alerts)
The system is not centralized; each department and agency in the county will be able to send out messages over the Everbridge system, so in the event of a disaster destroying the Emergency Management office in the City Building, the system would still be viable.
If you sign up for the new mass notification system and you are near your telephone, you will be notified in the event of an emergency.
The company that is providing the "engine" for the new system is Everbridge. With offices on the east coast and the west coast, in Europe and Asia, it provides emergency notification services for more than 100 countries and the Red Cross.
Everbridge was the notification system in place during the Boston Marathon bombing.
"For 18 months, I listened to a lot of different people and what they had to other," said Shari Harrington when asked how Everbridge was chosen. "Beth Sessions found them."
Sessions manages the city and county's E911 emergency dispatch system.
"She told me, you have to look at Everbridge," Harrington said.
Two companies presented their products and city and county department heads agreed Everbridge would meet the community's needs.
The system works like this:
You log into www.montgomeryco.net or the City of Crawfordsville's Facebook page and find the link for the Mass Notification System.
Once on Everbridge's site, you have the opportunity to create an account, telling Everbridge how to find you at home, at work, on your home phone, work phone and/or cell phone.
You can sign up for many alerts (see sidebar.)
The form also asks you to enter any special needs you may have including dialysis or hearing impairments, and in the event of emergency, what services you can volunteer, such as if you are an EMT or you are trained as a counselor.
Harrington doesn't recommend it, but you can also ask Everbridge not to call you during certain times of the day or night. That could be dangerous during severe weather, but the option is on the form.
If you do not want to sign up, you will eventually get a call from the National Weather Service on your smart phone in the event of severe weather, anyway. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also rolling out a notification system for nationwide emergencies, using your smart phone, Harrington said.
Right now, more than 200 local residents have signed up for the Everbridge service and 8,000 listings in the white pages and the yellow pages telephone directories are included in the Montgomery County system.
The service will cost $14,000 the first year, including a setup fee and $13,000 each year thereafter. Harrington said she is confident money is available for the system for at least the first three years. She is also looking for grants to help pay the cost.
By comparison, it costs $12,500 to purchase and install each weather siren in the county and many people are not close enough to a siren to hear it when it sounds.
So, why continue the siren system?
"Not everyone is near a phone," Harrington said. "Some people may be on a lake or on a golf course and not have their phones with them."
Another reason is that even if people have land lines in their homes and offices, some do not want a smart phone. If those people are not near their home or office phone, they have to rely on a siren.
More people buy smart phones each year but there are still many who do not want the devices, Harrington said.
If all this sounds like Big Brother is watching, remember he has your number and he might be calling you the next time there is a tornado or another emergency that affects your neighborhood.