Updates allowing registration of cells for 911 alerts

By Wendy Byerly Wood - wbyerly-wood@civitasmedia.com

County 911 telecommunicators are seeking out ways of reaching Surry County residents who may use cell phones only or may have changed numbers or addresses in the last month to update their reverse 911 alert system.

The county recently updated its account with Emergency Communications Network, the providers of the CodeRED high-speed notification system and the CodeRED weather warning system used by Surry emergency services in the case of an emergency or alert needed to go out to the public.

The free update will allow message recipients to easily identify calls coming through the systems, explained a press release provided by Stephanie Conner, communications director for the Surry County 911 Communications Center.

“Message recipient’s Caller ID will read Emergency Communications Network or 866-419-5000 for CodeRED calls. And for CodeRED Weather Warning calls, either Emergency Communications Network or the number 800-566-9780 will appear on Caller ID displays,” stated the release.

One of the key advantages of the update for residents, Conner said, is “residents can simply dial the number displayed on their Caller ID to hear the last message delivered. This will greatly reduce the number of inbound inquiries in our office and will offer residents an immediate replay of the message.”

She said Tuesday the program has several beneficial qualities for those in the community. “We’ve had this system for several years, but previously it worked with messages going out to a home phone associated with your address, so if you had no home phone, you wouldn’t get a message.

“Now you can register cell numbers, email addresses, text messages if you like, and you can add more than one phone number and email address to a home address,” Conner said, adding that there are various levels of weather alerts offered as well, for instance if someone only wants to get thunderstorm alerts or snow alerts that is an option.

“If someone wants to track messages and alerts in the neighborhood of their elderly parent, they can register to do that now,” she said.

The weather alerts come from automated alerts through CodeRED based on warnings produced by the National Weather Service. The reverse 911 alerts are sent out through the county communications center for a number of reasons, Conner explained.

“Say there is a dangerous subject in an area we’re looking for, a missing person whether it’s an adult or child, if a large fire is coming toward their residence, any community message for their safety, we would give out. Or it might be general messages, like we did a county-wide message a while back when the county sheriff’s office line went out,” she said. “Most of the time, we do them when residents’ safety is concerned.”

The program also has an app which can be accessed and installed on a person’s mobile device. The link for the app is located on the bottom of the county website.

“Residents don’t have to (participate), but we’ve had a lot of calls go out and people calling us want to know why they didn’t get the message, so this way we can ensure those who want to participate can get those,” said Conner.

The CodeRED system provides officials with the ability to quickly deliver messages to targeted areas or the entire county. People wanting to know if they are included in the database can access that by logging into the county’s website, www.co.surry.nc.us, and following the link to the “CodeRED Community Notification Enrollment” page.

Businesses can register as well as individuals with unlisted phone numbers, who have changed their phone number or address within the past year, and those who use a cell phone or VoIP phone as their primary number. For people who don’t have internet access, they can call the Surry County Communications Center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 336-401-8650 to supply the information needed.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

By Wendy Byerly Wood


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