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Does Your City or Local Police Department Have a Mass Alert System?
Last month we talked about the “Lone Wolf” terrorist and the random nature of such attacks. While there is little, if anything, that authorities can do to predict or prevent these attacks, some cities are instituting a Mass Alert Notification System . . . a message distribution system to get the word out immediately when something does happen.
Actually, most cities have a basic telephone notification system; the most popular one is called Reverse 911®. When an emergency happens or threatens, authorities can automatically send out a recorded phone message to all or some of the phone numbers found in the database within that geographic area. If the line is busy, the phone will redial several times in an attempt to leave its message. The important limitation to Reverse 911 is that it only goes to landlines.
If you do not have a landline, or are not home or at a work number when the call goes out,
you will miss the message.
Our city has enrolled in an enhanced mass messaging system, called “iAlert.” This is an opt-in program; you go online and sign up for the service and the message comes to you three ways, depending on which options you sign up for.
First, it comes by recorded telephone call to the primary or work telephone number you provide. (This can be a landline, a VOIP line, or a cell phone number.)
You will also receive an email to the email address you give, and finally, the message comes as an SMS text message to your smart or mobile phone. The only cost is the SMS charge is for the standard data cost imposed by your cell phone carrier when you receive a text message.
IAlert messages can also be sent to hearing-impaired receiving devices.
Useful, Targeted Messages
On more than one occasion we have received notifications of missing persons, suspected active shooter situations and alerts to fires in progress. Our CERT team has also received activation alerts.
If your local authorities provide this service, you can likely sign up for it on the city’s website. If not, you may want to inquire at your local Police Department of their interest in providing the service in the future.
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team