Emergency system up and running
Town officials yesterday put the finishing touches on the emergency notification system that was approved in February, and not a second too soon with two more months of the hurricane season ahead of us.
With the system up and running, Police Chief Ed Mello says that the next step is for members of the community to take full advantage of it. The Police Department this week launched its new website, and on it is a link to the Everbridge emergency system. The town’s website also has a link to the system. This is where residents should go to register for the system, says Mello.
Last night Mello was expected to send out a message introducing islanders to the system. But only those with a landline – there are about 3,100 in Jamestown – would have received the call. Mello would like to see each community member enter their preferred contact method, whether it is home phone, work phone, cell phone, email or text message.
“For this system to be at its most successful, people in the community need to let us know what is the best way to get a hold of them in the case of an emergency,” said Mello, who is the director of the town’s emergency management agency. “That is what will keep residents most informed.”
The system is highly customiz- able. There are eight check boxes for community alerts: power outages, road detours, fire hydrant flushing, registered sex offenders, water outages, crime alerts, public heath and emergency animal shelter. Each registered person can pick and choose what they want to be alerted for.
“If you don’t want a phone call or text message informing you of one of these community alerts, don’t check the box and we don’t bother you,” said Mello.
The one box that registered people don’t have the ability to unsubscribe to is the emergency alert, which is defined as “imminent or potential threats to life of property.”
These types of emergencies include severe weather – like hurricanes and tornados – wildfires, floods, natural gas leak, missing persons and police activity that requires community members to evacuate or take shelter.
The system also has a volunteer query on it. If a registered community member is an emergency medical technician, a trained firefighter, a shelter volunteer or someone with other medical training, they can check as many boxes as they qualify for, informing Mello that they may be available in case of an emergency.
“If there is an emergency and all of the town’s firefighters are tied up, I can look up on the system who is a trained firefighter, and send out an alert to those people letting them know that we are in need of assistance,” said Mello.
Another feature of the system is that there is an area where community members can let the town’s emergency officials know if they have any special needs. If someone is hearing impaired, visually impaired, speech impaired, mentally impaired, oxygen or power dependent, on dialysis, or in a wheelchair or immobile, they can check each box that pertains to them.
“If there is a hurricane and a certain part of town needs to evacuate, we can check the system to see if anyone in that area may need assistance,” said Mello. “If there is someone in a wheelchair in that area, we will call or send a police officer to check on them to make sure they’re safe.”
Mello – whose voice will be recorded for the emergency messages
(Lt. Angela Deneault will record the messages in his absence) – also has access to a geographical information system. With this function, Mello can pull up a map on his computer and reach people within a certain range. For example, if there is a sexual offender living on the island, he can take the offender’s residence and send an alert to those within a half-mile of the person’s home.
Mello also recognizes that since registering for the system is done entirely online, there may be residents who either aren’t familiar enough with technology to register themselves or don’t have access to a computer. For this reason, he said, Deneault is spearheading a project where she will help register people. Mello said that managers of the town’s apartment complexes should contact Deneault directly at 423-1670 so a seminar can be set up with residents who are having trouble registering.
“Lt. Deneault will sit down with a resident and either walk them through it, or do it for them,” said Mello. “We would like to see everyone register.”
For contact preferences, a community member can enter up to 10 ways to be contacted, including two cellphones, two text numbers, two emails, two home phone numbers, a business phone number, and a number for a telecommunication device for the deaf. If a resident enters more than one contact method, they chose how they want to be contacted first, then second, then third, and so on. Once the message reaches them, the system stops alerting them automatically so that it doesn’t keep bothering them, said Mello.