Grand County adds CodeRed emergency notification capabilities
April 8, 2008
To better inform the public during major emergencies, especially people who have cell phones rather than land lines, Grand County commissioners approved contracting with a high-tech emergency communications phone system Tuesday.
At a cost of $3,750 for the first year ” half price due to a matching grant ” the county will have more than its existing Reverse 911 to notify businesses, residences and individuals during emergencies by using CodeRed information technology.
“The YMCA fire (last summer) brought to a head the need to communicate better with the public,” said Grand County’s Office of Emergency Management Director Ray Jennings, adding that the new system would have come in handy to inform more Hot Sulphur Springs residents about their recent water boil and conservation order.
The Web-based system CodeRed is “another tool to help notify the community,” he said.
The system can deliver up to 1,000 calls per minute, or 60,000 calls in an hour, making it much faster than Reverse 911. And, unlike Reverse 911, the system allows for cell phone calls through a database that can include cell phone numbers and unlisted calling data. For all calls, the system redials numbers that were busy or otherwise failed to receive the call up to three times, after which it produces a “non-connected” list for emergency managers.
CodeRed was developed surrounding a series of Florida wildfires in 1998. Emergency management there sought help for a way to inform community members about up-to-the-minute changes in evacuation routes when wind directions would change, according to Vice President David Digiacomo of Emergency Communication Network, the company that created CodeRed.
The system is easily set up, he said, and is managed much like online banking.
“For second homeowners, it’s going to be great,” Digiacomo said. Any cell phone users who are full-time or part-time residents who register with the system can be reached during emergencies. If people put their name and in-county address into the data base, they can tie that name and address to any phone number they’d like, he said, even if it’s a non-local number. This would allow second homeowners away from their Grand County residences to be informed about an emergency that could affect their mountain home.
Or, it also would allow those same residents, many of whom may not have a local land line, to be reached while in Grand County.
The company prefers reaching people through voice rather than text messaging or e-mail to phone.
“It’s the only mode of communication that is federally regulated,” Digiacomo said.
In other words, if a call is sent out, it must have an immediate response, either by a busy signal, voice mail or answer.
With text messaging, there is no regulation in place that says the message must be received in a timely manner. “We’re keeping people from using that right now,” Digiacomo said, “until the laws catch up to the technology.”
The new information system is being paid for out of the $71,000 Emergency Management annual budget. For subsequent years, the office would make room for the $7,500 annual Code Red contract, according to Jennings.
“It’s better than an outside warning sign and better than just our Web site,” Jennings told commissioners.
EMS returns from Baltimore trip
Emergency Medical Services Director Ray Jennings and company returned from a trip to Baltimore, Md., where they attended a “really good conference,” Jennings informed commissioners Tuesday.
The purpose of the trip for Jennings was to meet with other EMS chiefs throughout the nation to work on issues that affect departments on a national level. The conference also provided classes and informational workshops for other EMS workers.
Grand County EMS officials brought back with them, from manufacturer McCoy Miller in Elkhart, Ind., three new county-approved ambulance trucks. EMS bought the trucks on a six-year lease through Grand Mountain Bank. By picking up the trucks rather than having them delivered, the department saved about $2,000, Jennings said.
The white truck Jennings parked outside of the courthouse for commissioners to take a gander at has not yet received its lights and signage to be transformed into a Grand County EMS ambulance. Without those details, the vehicle resembled “a milk truck” more than an ambulance , Jennings joked.
Jennings told commissioners he learned at the conference that even “the big super urban areas” are having the same EMS recruitment retention problems Grand County is experiencing.
“The trend seems to be growing,” he said, explaining that emergency medical services throughout the nation are finding that members of the new generation are less interested in careers that deal directly with person care. “They want to deal with a (an electronic) box,” Jennings said.
As far as retaining employees, “We’re not the only ones suffering that way,” he said.
Three Grand County paramedics and an EMS technician were selected as one of 25 teams in this year’s EMS national skills challenge in Baltimore. Rick Kunth, Don Koogle, Shane Collins and Jeremy Utter competed for the first time in the challenge and took 15th out of 25 teams, a finish Jennings said deserved kudos. The challenge included practical scenarios in which team members worked through various physical obstacles to reach then treat a patient. They were also tested on medical knowledge and skills.
Burn season extended.
Due to the unseasonal snowfalls of late, the burn season has been extended to April 15, according to Grand County Natural Resources Division Foreman Jennifer Murray.
She added that it may be extended further due to snow cover.
As many as 4,800 piles, amounting to 14 million cubic feet of woody debris, have been burned thus far during the 2007-08 burn season, she reported. And, she said, that figure does not account for an estimated 10 percent of burns not called into the division as required.