When Henry County was slammed with snow and ice on Jan. 27-28, the county had a new tool to notify residents of an emergency situation.
Installed in December, the OneCall Inc., emergency notification system was used for the first time in Henry County.
The Henry, Owen and Trimble counties 911 board contracted with the company to provide an automated calling service allowing the 911 center to send an emergency voice message by phone to residents in the three county area. Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent said it is similar to systems used by school districts.
Brent said the 911 board was formed in the late 1990’s in Henry County. “It is great and very cost efficient,” he said. Brent said similar-sized Garrard County spends $300,000 per annum on its system while Henry County’s costs $100,000. Brent said money for the program was not taken from the general fund. “It comes from the regional board via 911 dollar assessments on bills,” he said.
The 911 board is comprised of each county’s judge executive plus the state police post captain.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Greg Derossett, who collects phone numbers for the system, said the system was utilized during the recent ice storm. “It was the first time we had activated it,” he said.
Brent said he felt it was a great opportunity to offer information to protect residents’ health and safety. “(That week) was a perfect example,” he said. “We told people to stay home, and told them where shelters would be.”
The Community Emergency Notification System notifies affected residents to evacuations, threats to life or property, disasters or any other emergency information the public may need to know. “People won’t get a call every time there’s a thunderstorm,” Brent said. “Hopefully it will only get used once or twice a year.”
Derossett said there is a mapping feature on the web-based system that can pinpoint an affected segment of the population. “For instance if there’s a boil water advisory for a part of the county, it won’t contact the whole population,” he said.
The system also has a tracking mechanism so that emergency services can monitor how many people actually received the information. “The calls run through the main server and we get an e-mail back,” Derossett said.
He said he considered the system’s trial run during the ice storm a success. “We got three-quarters of the county notified,” Derossett said. “We had several phone lines out of service and we can’t control utilities.”
Businesses and residences with published or non-published phone numbers automatically will receive emergency messages. Residents also may request to enter cell phone numbers to their listings. To add a number to the list, contact Greg Derossett at (502) 845-7760.
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