County to implement emergency notification system
For a society moving itself into the having the world at its fingertips, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department is joining the craze.
The sheriff's department has implemented an emergency notification system effective Jan. 1 in which county residents and business owners will know quickly and accurately of emergency and informational messages.
The department will incorporate the system from City Watch Notification Solutions, based out of the Twin Cities. City Watch, which started in 1968, has systems already set up at nuclear facilities (Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy), state health departments (Illinois, Michigan, Alabama, Alaska and Oklahoma), schools (Wayzata, Minn., and Belcourt, N.D.) and other law enforcement agencies in the country.
The system was introduced at a recent meeting in front of Pierce County officials, along with law enforcement and medical officials from cities within the county.
"When we looked at it from all angles, we felt this was a good fit and system for the county," said Lt. Mike Knoll of the sheriff's department, who is also the department's 911 coordinator. "This is going to be good for the communities and good for all of us."
The program, which was funded by Xcel Energy, Pierce County, City of River Falls and UW-River Falls, means, for example, a school within the county can notify thousands of parents instantly if the school has a broken water main, or if necessary a critical emergency.
Parents will be notified first by their landline phone; if that doesn't work, cell phone, e-mail, text, fax will be used until confirmation has been received.
That's where Knoll acknowledges the first step has to be done. He explained they already have all the landline numbers in the county due to the 911 database. However, the way society's been going, some people in the county might not even have a landline number and only have cell phones.
"We won't have them unless they notify us," said Knoll.
Knoll and Don Denman, vice president for City Watch, who gave the presentation during the meeting, assured those in the crowd the numbers won't be given out and will only be used for the notification system.
Denman added, "it's important for the citizens to provide us with accurate and updated information." He also stated to the audience all local calls will be like any other phone call and the owner wouldn't be receiving any charge from them
Knoll said the City of River Falls is very excited about the system and wished they had it last fall, for example, when the water shortage throughout the city was ordered. At the same time, with all the college students at the university likely having just cell phones, they know they have a problem to deal with, which he said, is going to be taken care of.
Denman explained the three options City Watch carries: On-Site System Purchase, in which all the hardware and software will be located at the sheriff's department, where it will hook up to telephone lines also at the department; Off-Site Remote Service Bureau in which no hardware or software will be at the sheriff's department and the hardware, software and telephone lines will be located at Avtex's headquarters, City Watch's parent company; and finally, On-Site System Purchase with Capacity on Demand, the option Knoll said the county is likely to choose. Capacity on Demand means it gives the sheriff's department the option of owning its system and, once it's installed, it could be used on a personal basis.