Hall County’s mass emergency alert system is going to be used less often after a policy change prompted by Tuesday’s missing child alert.
A call went out to every landline registered into the county 911 system — all 45,000 of them — at about 1:45 a.m. Tuesday warning residents of the missing child in the Riviere Point area, prompting dozens of phone calls to the county from frustrated residents later that day.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office gave the go-ahead to make the call while officers were out searching for the child, who was found.
On Wednesday, county administration decided that future mass calls during the night will only be made in life-threatening situations for the community at large: severe weather, fires, toxic environmental issues and in-process violent crimes, according to a Wednesday announcement.
Only those who have signed up for Hall County’s Citizen Alert System, which sends out emails and texts to those who opt in on the county’s website, will be alerted to nonlife-threatening situations during the night.
“When this went out, we kind of stepped back to decide exactly what is an emergency notification,” said David Kimbrell, director of the county Emergency Management Agency. “We changed our policy so that those type of alerts won’t go out to the landlines and business customers in the middle of the night.”
The county received 30 to 35 calls from older residents and workers frustrated by being woken when they “wouldn’t have been able to help in the situation anyway,” Kimbrell said.
Once residents opt in, the county alert system can be customized to send notices about weather hazards. Residents can select or exclude which types of hazards they’d like to be alerted about and which agencies they’d like to hear from. That list includes the following:
• Community events
• Fire department alerts
• Law enforcement alerts
• Power outages
• Public meeting alerts
• Public works alerts
• Traffic information, closures
• Water outages