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.
Township to test phone system for emergencies
By Rusty Pray
Evesham Township today will try out a new emergency notification system that the state hopes other municipalities and counties will adopt.
Between 4 and 8 p.m., every land-line telephone in the township - 30,000 numbers, including businesses - will get a call with a recorded test message through the state police. If a person or an answering machine responds, the message will be left. If not, the system will continue to call the number until 8.
Evesham will be tapping into the state's computerized reverse-911 system, which can call every number in a town or county, or just a few homes in a neighborhood.
The system could be used to warn residents of floods, water contamination, chemical release, or "anything that poses a threat to public safety," said Ed Sasdelli, township manager. "It will not be used to notify residents of leaf pickup on Saturday."
The state police bought computer hardware and a phone number database from Verizon in the summer as part of security preparations for the Republican National Convention in New York and to notify the public in case of a terrorist attack, said Capt. Mike Nutt, communications bureau chief for the state police.
That provided access to 7.9 million phone numbers.
The state police system "has grown into a more general emergency system," Nutt said. "We'd like the counties and municipalities to join because it gives them access to a consistent response."
It's a simple process. Evesham will send a message by e-mail to the state police, who will confirm it before reading in into the message system at their communications center in Hamilton Township. Then the phones will start ringing.
Nutt said the system had been tested on a small scale in Ocean Township, where 50 homes were called, and on a much larger scale in West Orange, where 23,000 residents were called about contaminated drinking water because of a ruptured main about a month ago.
Evesham will become the first town in the state to sign a memorandum of understanding hiring the state police as messengers, Nutt said.
Unlike firms that offer reverse 911 systems, the state is not charging setup or maintenance fees - just a flat 20 cents for each connection. Evesham will pay about $6,000 for its test.
Sasdelli said Evesham had looked into a private reverse-911 service after emergency notification procedures failed to reach some residents to warn them of contaminated water during flooding in the summer.
The devastating rains of July 12-13 dumped as much as 13 inches on Burlington County in 12 hours, forcing the evacuation of almost 800 people and causing more than $50 million in damage to homes and infrastructure.
Typically, firms charge a setup fee of $5,000 to $10,000 and a monthly fee for updating and maintenance in addition to a per-call charge, Sasdelli said.
Counties and towns could also buy their own equipment, but then they would have to service it and there would be a "fairly expensive recurring cost" for maintenance and updating, said Joe Saiia, director of public safety for Burlington County.
With state police absorbing the setup and maintenance costs, counties and municipalities - and thus taxpayers - will save money.
"That's the beauty of it," said Donald Elmer, director of emergency management for Camden County, which will use the state's system countywide.
Burlington County supports the system but for now is encouraging towns to join individually, Saiia said. "It's a win-win situation for everybody."
The system is not foolproof, however.
It can't call cell phones, so it can't notify homes without a land line. And if a home does not have an answering machine and the resident does not pick up the receiver, he or she won't get the message.
"You'll never get 100 percent connection rate," Sasdelli said. In West Orange, connection was made with 15,000 of the 23,000 phones, a 65 percent rate, Nutt said.
"It's like insurance," Elmer said. "You buy it and hope you never have to use it."
Our Service Is Activated Online Or By Phone
The 911 emergency broadcast service is easy to install and use. We help you collect community call lists and organize them in a fashion that best fits your emergency broadcast requirements. When an emergency arises, you simply record your emergency message offline or use our toll free phone service to record your message.
Next identify your call recipients using a simple list manager or a graphical map display and send us your phone numbers via the internet. You can also identify pre-defined lists to call using simple touchphone responses on our toll free service. We do the rest.
Unlike some systems that are limited by the number of lines available to perform this emergency dialing, our service is provided to you using a network of thousands of phone lines that can deliver your emergency messages much faster.
Our emergency notification system delivers messages to individuals or answering machines and can even allow the call recipient to make touchphone selections. This may be critical if your response center requires a positive acknowledgement from the call recipient.
Purchase Or Outsource?
This is a question that communities should carefully consider. A purchased system gives you more control, but requires sufficient phone lines, equipment and on site technical knowledge to keep your system operational. The larger your community, the greater capital expense is required to broadcast your emergency messages in a timely fashion. If your message broadcasting system is used for more than just emergencies, it is easier to justify a purchase over contracted service. After all, emergency phone broadcasting is something you hope you never need to use.
Contracting your emergency broadcasting service requires less up front capital and can provide a faster emergency broadcast response if your provider has the resources available. Other than a monthly subscription fee, you only pay for the emergency broadcast as it occurs. System redundancy is available as well as centralized and experienced technical assistance.