Emergency Autodialer System - Fort Collins, Colorado
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Emergency Notification Systems

emergency alert systems This section of our technical library presents articles written about Emergency Alert Systems and Disaster Recovery definitions, terms and related information.

The 911Broadcast emergency notification and alert service can deliver a large number of phone calls using a network of phone systems employing digital phone lines simultaneously. Should a disaster such as a snow storm, wild fire or flood hit your area, 911Broadcast systems can alert your community quickly providing specific instructions if an evacuation is required.

This service is available using our emergency broadcasting systems. If a dangerous chemical spill occurs in your community, you can target specific areas to call. If a severe snow storm hits your area, your community can be notified of school closings or event cancellations.

Our emergency notification service broadcasts pre-recorded voice messages for normal phones as well as Hearing Impaired TDD / TTY Phone devices.

Emergency Autodialer System - Fort Collins, Colorado

Emergency Dialer Project Overview and Goals

emergency autodialer map The Fort Collins Flood of July 28, 1997 caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage, and took the lives of five people. During the post incident analysis several disturbing facts became clear. The most dangerous flooding took place late at night, after many people had retired for the evening. It had been raining steadily for quite some time, so most people's windows were closed, and some had fans or air conditioning units running. Rescue efforts often consisted of pounding on people's doors, trying to arouse attention and notify them of the danger. It became painfully clear that a better method of notifying people of an imminent emergency was needed, and indeed might have saved some lives. We realized that although we cannot prevent natural disasters from happening, we can mitigate the potential outcome by providing our citizens with the maximum lead time possible, so they can make the best choices to keep themselves safe.

The ideal solution would require the use of a notification system that:

  • would reach the greatest number of people in the affected area;
  • would be effective at all hours of the day and night;
  • would be able to reach those inside closed dwellings with high ambient noise levels;
  • would be able to reach those living in the more peripheral areas of the City;
  • would be selective, so that a general panic would not be created;
  • would let the people know what the specific problem was, and what they should do;
  • would deliver a consistent message to everyone;
  • would be able to reach our hearing impaired community members;
  • would not, of itself, generate a glut of 9-1-1 calls, thus overloading the system;
  • would not require additional staffing or excessive time to operate;
  • would fit within existing budget constraints.
An emergency committee was formed consisting of Emergency Management personnel, weather experts, Stormwater personnel, emergency responders, and citizens of the community. This group analyzed the hazard vulnerability of Fort Collins and researched available notification methods and their preliminary costs. A funding source was identified in the form of grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

This group used a matrix of possible scenarios of where a person might be during an event (i.e. at work, driving their car, at home with windows closed and TV on, or at home asleep). Various situations were factored in such as whether a person might be hearing impaired, immobile, a regular TV watcher, or computer user. Consideration was also given to the possibility of loss of services during an event, such as loss of power or loss of telephones.

The consensus of the emergency committee was a combination of four primary notification systems. These included a local Emergency Radio station, a system of Stream and Precipitation Gages, an improved TV Cable Emergency Override System, and an Emergency Auto-Dialing Notification System. The group felt the multi-level package consisting of these four products had the best potential to reach the most people during the kinds of events that most often affect Fort Collins, and could be implemented under the current budget.

Design Criteria and Specifications

The heart of the Emergency Auto-Dialer system is computer software that is able to deliver recorded information via telephone in the event of an emergency, or potential emergency situation. This is done, normally, by selecting a geographical area on a computer screen map of the community. The program then uses the public telephone database and automatically dials every phone number within that geographical area and delivers a pre-recorded message. The computer also interfaces with alpha pager, fax, and TDD/TTY devices (for the hearing impaired).

One of the great advantages of this emergency notification system over many others is that it has the potential of reaching citizens when they are at home asleep. It is also fills a need for the hearing impaired, who can be sent a message on alpha pager or called through TDD/TTY telephones. It also may reach a segment of our population that doesn’t routinely have their television or radio on while at home or at work. If the phone line is busy when the system calls, the call is cycled to the back of the list, and the system will keep trying to call. It can also leave the message on an answering machine.

The Emergency Auto-Dialer System can also be used to great advantage for purposes other than emergency evacuations. For example, a community bulletin regarding a lost child, or a police notification of a potential hazard can be tailored to target a specific neighborhood. Early notification during these types of incidents results in many more "eyes" in the community, looking for the lost child, for example.

Emergency Partnerships

City of Fort Collins, Geographical Information Services
GIS Mapping Coordination

Poudre Emergency Communications Center
Police and Notification Coordination

City of Fort Collins, Information Technology Department
Telephone System Coordination

Crime Alerts - Emergency Notification For Crime Warnings

tech library crime alerts and crime warning If a crime should threaten your community, our telephone warning system can notify your neighborhoods immediately. With our emergency notification phone service, you can broadcast warning messages to thousands of households in your community warning of a criminal activity that requires resident notification.

Messages can be simultaneously delivered in just minutes using our network of phone systems and services. Pre-recorded warning messages can be played giving households information regarding a criminal alert and whether residents need to remain at home or evacuate a particular neighborhood. You can send a broadcast warning to specific neighborhoods or communities in the event of this type of criminal activity and provide priority delivery of these messages to those nearest crime scene. Multiple messages can be delivered to different members of the community based upon proximity to the area of the crime. Calls can be directed to operators that are standing by to handle special individual emergencies. Messages can also be broadcast seeking volunteers or special assistance from emergency personnel.

Remote communities have used this technology to warn residents when a criminal is operating in their community. A more immediate use is when there has been an abduction of an individual, notifying the immediate neighborhood to be on the lookout for the criminal and the victim. Other applications include warning residents when the danger of a crime is higher based on criminal intelligence. Travel and activity restrictions can likewise be broadcast using this service.

Messages warning of criminal activity sent to households in this fashion can be simple warnings with specific or general instructions. If the community needs feedback from the call, an interactive response can be programmed into the message allowing the person to either acknowledge the call or to contact someone. Messages can vary based upon proximity to the event, with different degrees of broadcast warning and instructions.

To learn more about our notification and emergency response and disaster recovery phone service, please visit our Emergency Broadcast System web page.

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