June 7 emergency notification system nets results | SkyHiNews.com

June 7 emergency notification system nets results

Tonya Bina
tbina@skyhidailynews.com
Grand County CO Colorado

Recent testing of the emergency notification system resulted in invaluable information for emergency officials.

A “Code Red” notification test took place at 1 p.m. on June 7, when as many as 11,700 calls were made to those who have signed up through the Grand County Office of Emergency Management for emergency-notification calls to primarily cell phones.

Of that number of calls, 68 percent were actual “connects,” according to Office of Emergency Management Manager Trevor Denney. A connect is defined as voicemail or an actual answer.

The remaining phone calls were defined as “operator intersects,” Denney said, which meant the calls resulted in no answer. The notification company Code Red will now attempt to call those same numbers over the next few days, Denney said, and if they continue to be bad numbers, they will be purged.

All in all, the system was deemed to function as it should, Denney said. Emergency officials learned that the local phone system could handle 400 calls a minute, which means reaching everyone on the Code Red list in Grand County would take one-half hour in a real emergency.

To speed up the process for a real emergency, Denney and other emergency officials are working on pre-recording messages for certain areas of the county. In all likelihood, emergency messaging would be three-fold, Denney said, with a call describing the emergency, another call warning to prepare to evacuate, and a third call to evacuate with shelter locations. Although the department will try to give people as much warning as possible, the nature of the emergency will dictate how many warning calls one receives. The first call could be to evacuate, Denney said.

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The test also served well to advertise the emergency notification service and to clean up the database. Since the test, as many as 1,000 people have re-registered their information to update it with Code Red through the Office of Emergency website, or have registered for the first time.

“It’s great so many people are signing up,” said Office of Emergency Management spokesperson Nowell Curran.

The Code Red test was done at no cost to the county, according to Denney, and the test message was confined to just 60 seconds.

In a real emergency, information would be delivered much slower, he said.

For those who would ever need the information repeated, the phone number – 1-866-419-5000 – can be called back at any time to hear the same recording. Denney suggests cell phone users save this number in their contacts under “Grand County emergency,” or something similar, so that they are more likely to answer the call.

Although emergency notification is an important tool, emergency responders remind mountain residents to not rely solely on it in the event of a real emergency. Common sense overrides, and if residents feel their safety may be threatened, they should evacuate even if they haven’t received information to do so.

In the event a cell phone tower is down, other ways to receive emergency information would be online at http://www.gcemergency.com, by calling 211, or through media outlets.

Emergency notification system

Another emergency notification test focused exclusively on local land lines in the Grand Lake area at 2 p.m. on May 24. Administered through the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, the test served to point out possible glitches in the system of Twenty First Century Communications, according to Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson.

(The automated phone calling system is commonly referred to as “Reverse 9-1-1,” but the Sky-Hi News has since learned this is a trademark of Cassidian Communications Inc. and cannot be referred to as such unless talking about that particular system.)

A total of about 330 land-line phones were called three times during the test in Grand County. In the first attempt, as many as 34 percent were contacted either by answering machine or an answer. The contacts were fewer during the second and third calls.

The test report also breaks down calls by percentages of busy signals, fax machines, no answers and “network errors.”

Network errors made up the greatest percentage at 42.4 percent during the first call attempt and 35.9 percent in the second call attempt.

“The result of the network errors is completely unacceptable for our goals for public safety,” Johnson said. The sheriff has since contacted the emergency-notification company to find out the reasons behind network errors, but did not have information by press time.

The “no answer” category made up another large percentage of notification calls during the test.

The test was conducted from about the Pine Beach subdivision to north of the town of Grand Lake, and as far west as the U.S. Forest boundary.

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