Be alerted to emergencies via phone
April 12, 2012
It’s never too late or too early to be prepared for a widespread emergency – whether wildfire, rockslide, avalanche, disease outbreak, a terrorism attack, hazardous spills or leaks, storms or floods.
As a reminder, the Grand County Office of Emergency Management has set up ways to get information out to the public in the event of community-wide emergencies, but it may take a small effort to make sure one receives these services.
Code Red is an emergency notification system Grand County enrolled in a few years ago. Through the Grand County Office of Emergency Management, the county pays about $7,500 a year to make the system available to residents.
Code Red sends people emergency information via cell phones. This service is tailored for those who do not have land lines. Those who have both a land line and cell phone can also sign up for the service.
Registering one’s information to receive notifications about an emergency close to home on a cell phone is easy. Go to gcemergency.com and click on the link in red letters under “Code Red” information. Then on the Code Red page, fill out the information about where you live and your cell phone number(s). Code Red will ask you to pinpoint on a map the location of your home for greatest accuracy. The Code Red will alert you via cell phone if there is an emergency near your place of residence.
For those who are Internet-challenged, call the Grand County Office of Emergency Management at 970-887-2732 and someone there will help sign you up over the telephone.
This free new app alerts a cell phone user if there is an emergency near where the person is located, which differs from the Code Red registration that notifies cell phone users of emergencies near their homes. The Code Red company calls the app “geo-aware” – even if one is miles from home, the app will let you know if there is a disaster happening near where you and your phone are located at that moment.
“It’s public safety while on the go,” said Stephanie Meyers, marketing manager of Emergency Communications Network, which created the Code Red app service.
The app allows smart-phone users to customize settings to receive the types of alerts they are interested in. Although the app also shows emergencies happening regionally, app customers will only receive alerts in pop-up form, similar to a text message on a smart phone, if there is an emergency that the county of your location is warning people about within a certain radius.
In other words, you only receive a message if the city or county of your current location authorizes and sends a message.
This app was launched on iPhones in January and on Androids just last week. Meyers stressed that users should make sure they turn on the “location services” under “Settings” on their smart phones to ensure the Code Red app functions properly by knowing where you are located.
To customize types of warnings for the location you are in, click on “settings” within the application. The icon on the left of each warning alert can be pressed to further customize.
Because the two Code Red services – the app and the online version – differ in the location of emergencies they warn you about, Meyers recommends users download and sign up for both.
This could be considered a support system available to anyone. The 2-1-1system provides community members connections to all kinds of services, such as answers about clothing, food, rent, shelter, support groups volunteerism, and is administered by the United Way of Larimer County.
Before a major Grand County emergency, anyone who may need extra assistance – whether temporary or permanent – should register with 2-1-1. This could be a single mother who may need help during an evacuation, it could be a person who relies on oxygen and needs help in an emergency, it could be a person or family who doesn’t own a vehicle and needs help if there is an evacuation, or it could be a person who has an injury such as a broken leg, which would limit him or her from taking necessary steps to get to safety. It could be an elderly person or couple, or someone who is hearing impaired. The service 2-1-1 would arrange with other services in the community to prepare for incidents when such people may need extra assistance.
Also, 2-1-1 would be the place to call for emergency information if one does not have access to the Internet during an emergency, and it would also be the place accepting calls from individuals who want to make donations to a disaster area during an emergency. The intention of this number would be a resource to free up unnecessary calls to 911 dispatch or the Grand County EMS when they are busy attending to the emergency, according to Nowell Curran of Grand County EMS.
Reverse 911 is the system that notifies land-line telephone users of an emergency taking place close to home.
The dispatcher would notify all homeowners within a certain radius of a location, regardless of the telephone company homeowners are contracted with within that zone.
“The idea is, when we define the area, it doesn’t matter what the phone number is,” said Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson. “We tell the system to call everybody in that area.”
The county has contracted with the company 21st Century to compile and update the data bases of phone numbers needed to notify residents during an emergency.
The Grand County Emergency Telephone Service Authority, which subsidizes 911 and dispatch services in the county on about a $357,000 annual budget from phone surcharges paid by consumers, pays about $250 a month to make reverse 911 available to residents, according to Johnson.