In age of cell phones, Grand County emergency personnel wonder how to warn people | SkyHiNews.com

In age of cell phones, Grand County emergency personnel wonder how to warn people

Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News

Getting public information to residents during emergencies is a significant problem in Grand County.

“We have no good way to notify the public of something large or small,” said Chief Ray Jennings of Grand County Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Grand County currently uses the reverse 9-1-1 method, which relays important messages to land lines at residences and buildings. But most people use cell phones these days, which makes the reverse 9-1-1 only 40 percent effective, Jennings pointed out.

Grand County also uses radio to get a message across, but there’s only one radio station, Jennings said, and not everyone gets a signal.

The problem needs to be approached from multiple avenues, he said. Grand County Office of Emergency Management has a Web site in place (gcemergency.com), which gives updates on a regular basis during emergencies.

But another option to go along with the Web site could be text messaging, where people sign up for the service beforehand and receive text messages to their cell phones during an emergency or disaster. The service is usually free to citizens and is paid for by the government. Jennings added it would work well for locals, second homeowners and tourists ” if they are notified of the service during their visit.

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Grand County has its work cut out for it in the next few years getting its communication system up-to-date, commissioners and EMS personnel concluded.

Emergency shelters need some TLC

Grand County EMS had an “excellent” year in 2007, but one thing became clear during that windy, cold winter: Grand County’s shelters are inadequate.

Capt. Mike Stern told the Grand County commissioners that the Red Cross can not accommodate shelters in Grand County at this time because it does not have enough volunteers in the local area. There are also not enough cots and blankets.

“We need to come up with a self-sufficient plan so that Red Cross is not going to be the relied-upon entity,” Stern said.

EMS plans to tackle the problem this year by acquiring more supplies for shelters, work with Red Cross to train more volunteers in Grand County, and become more self-sufficient without using the help of Red Cross.

In other matters:

– The group heading up the potential recycling program had its first pre-bid meeting last Friday. Valley Recycles and Waste Connection showed up at the meeting, but noticeably missing was Waste Management. Grand County’s staff left a message with Waste Management but has not heard back. Request for Proposals are due Feb. 21.

– A home in Winter Park Ranch is experiencing some major issues due to water that is running down the road and onto the homeowner’s property. No one knows where the water, which is running above ground but not freezing, is coming from. Grand County officials said they would work toward finding the source of the problem.

– County commissioners considered a letter that urges the House of Agriculture Livestock and Natural Resources Committee to oppose House Bill 1165. The bill seeks to give local government unlimited authority to condition or prohibit any mining activity, operation or process. The commissioners agreed to table the decision and find out more about the bill first.

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