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February marks first anniversary of Citizen Alert System

Emergency notification of severe weather events and area hazards not delayed

POSTED: February 3, 2014 12:14 a.m.

February marks a year since Hall County implemented the Citizen Alert System.

The system allows the county and the National Weather Service to issue alerts via text message or email to local residents who sign up for the free service.

“It is a great system for emergency notifications because it takes the human element out of the equation,” Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said. “When the weather service deems a notification appropriate, they send it out and then (the alert system) automatically sends it to the recipients.

“So it takes the delays out of the system.”

The system, which covers both the county and the city of Gainesville, is operated by Everbridge, and has been used by a number of governments because of its redundancies that help prevent alert failures.

“It’s the same system they used to get information out during the Boston Marathon bombings,” Kimbrell said. “So far in the history of the company, they have not had a failure in getting alerts out.”

Hall County has had several opportunities to use the system in the last year. Alerts were sent out during the recent winter weather and during the flash floods that washed out several roads during the summer to inform residents of dangers, traffic obstacles and alternate routes.

Currently the system has the ability to reach about 30,000 residents and 6,000 businesses in both the county and city.

The alert system also allows citizens to report their own concerns including road hazards, fire hazards and storm damage. After signing up for the service, users can download a mobile app from Everbridge.com that will allow them to send pictures or information regarding nonemergency concerns to dispatchers, who then forward the information to the correct department to address it.

“It’s a better way to get information to us, because it allows the dispatcher to actually see what the problem is and then they can prioritize it,” Kimbrell said. “If someone sends in a photo of an icy road, the dispatcher can see if the whole street is iced over or if it is just a small patch.

“Telephoning in still works, and works well, but this just gives the dispatcher a better ability to prioritize situations.”

Despite its advantages, few people have chosen to use the interactive portion of the alert system, and no tips have been sent in recently, even during last week’s winter storm.

In an effort to better publicize the program, the county and city have created brochures and collaborated on a series of public service announcements that will air on TV18, the local government television channel, throughout February.

“We definitely don’t want to be in a situation like they are in metro Atlanta,” Kimbrell said “We want citizens to be as informed as possible considering weather and emergencies.”


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