County adopts new mass no­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem

New ven­dor of­fers im­prove­ments

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­ci­wl­hig.com

— Ce­cil County Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices has switched its mass no­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem, a move that has Michelle Lloyd, emer­gency pre­pared­ness man­ager, stoked.

“This is a game changer in pub­lic safety,” she said Mon­day.

Re­group Mass No­ti­fi­ca­tion, based in San Fran­cisco, re­places CodeRED, a sim­i­lar sys­tem the county ini­ti­ated in De­cem­ber 2013. Lloyd said Re­group costs about $10,000 less per year than the former sys­tem and comes with other im­prove­ments.

“We’ll have faster mass no­ti­fi­ca­tion with the push of a button,” she said.

An­other ad­van­tage of the

ELK­TON

new sys­tem is that the county will own the data whereas any in­for­ma­tion stored un­der CodeRED was dumped, Lloyd said. In this day of per­sonal data breach fears, Lloyd said res­i­dents can be as­sured that their in­for­ma­tion will only be ac­cessed by Re­group and her­self.

“There will be no third­party mar­ket­ing,” she said.

Corey Wo­darz, sales ex­ec­u­tive for Re­group, said the county also now has ac­cess to IPAWS, or the In­te­grated Pub­lic Alert Warn­ing Sys­tem, which sends out a mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion to ev­ery­one within a cer­tain area. Peo­ple don’t have to be reg­is­tered be­cause the sys­tem can reach peo­ple through the cell tower, he said, not­ing that the sys­tem isn’t for stan­dard emer­gency mes­sages.

“Send­ing an IPAWS would be a dire sit­u­a­tion,” Wo­darz said Tues­day.

Such a sit­u­a­tion re­cently oc­curred when FEMA used IPAWS to catch the sus­pect in the New York and New Jersey bomb­ings. In­for­ma­tion that led to the Sept. 19 ar­rest of Ahmed Khan Ra­hami came from the IPAWS­gen­er­ated broad­cast sent by fed­eral of­fi­cials to ev­ery cell­phone in both states. Ra­hami is ac­cused of set­ting off ex­plo­sive de­vices that in­jured 30 peo­ple.

While the sys­tem is al­ready in place, Lloyd said for­tu­nately there has been no need to use Re­group tech­nol­ogy.

“At some point I will test it,” she said.

Res­i­dents can sign up now by go­ing to the county web­site at www.cc­gov.org and click­ing on the Re­group icon. Those with land­line tele­phones are al­ready in the sys­tem. Fig­ur­ing that about 70 per­cent of the county has a tra­di­tional home phone, Lloyd is tar­get­ing those with cell­phones to reg­is­ter. She ac­knowl­edged some homes may rely solely on cell­phones.

Re­group has high func­tion­al­ity, al­low­ing Lloyd to send mes­sages spe­cific to a cer­tain area. For ex­am­ple, this means only res­i­dents in down­town Port De­posit would get flood warn­ings if the dan­ger is only in that wa­ter­front town.

“We worked more handin-hand with plan­ning and zon­ing to do the map­ping,” Lloyd said.

Ce­cil County’s GIS map­ping is in­te­grated into the sys­tem so the tar­get au­di­ence can be pre­cise.

On the other hand, no­ti­fi­ca­tions like the ones dis­patched dur­ing the bliz­zard in Jan­uary 2016 would be dis­trib­uted coun­ty­wide.

An­other ben­e­fit to the new sys­tem is the tech­nol­ogy re­quired to com­pose and send mes­sages.

“I can go to a lap­top and draw a map around that tar­get area ... or I can push out a mes­sage from my phone,” she said.

Also, she said the sys­tem can be used in­ter­nally to no­tify county em­ploy­ees about pub­lic safety or se­cu­rity is­sues.

Al­though she is happy with the sys­tem now, Lloyd is ea­gerly wait­ing for the chance to use a com­ing up­grade.

“We’ll have a sys­tem of icons and im­ages that have been ap­proved by (FEMA),” she said.

The sym­bols will be uni­ver­sally un­der­stand­able by any­one, re­gard­less of their na­tive lan­guage. Those should be in place by Jan­uary.

The new sys­tem also in­ter­faces bet­ter with so­cial me­dia plat­forms, al­low­ing for unlimited word­ing in a text mes­sage, but also the abil­ity to at­tach doc­u­ments through Face­book and Twit­ter.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited about it,” Lloyd said.

COUR­TESY RE­GROUP

Ce­cil County Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices has switched its mass no­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem to Re­group. The new sys­tem is eas­ier to use and costs $10,000 less each year than the former plat­form.

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