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CodeRED alert system coming to Crenshaw County

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Last month, a representative from the Emergency Communications Network (ECN) visited the Crenshaw County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) to speak to county officials about a notification system called CodeRED.

“Not long after I took over the EMA department, I realized that we had a problem with our warning system coverage,” said Crenshaw County EMA Director Elliott Jones.

“Back in February of 2015, I began talking with representatives from Emergency Communications Network out of Ormond, Florida about their 21st century technology community notification system called CodeRED. This technology serves for both emergency and general information.”

Jones states that the current weather notification system the county has relies on alerts from 26 weather sirens, which have a coverage radius of approximately one half mile during bad weather.

This means that only 13 square miles of coverage is supplied for the 611 square miles of Crenshaw County, which is only two percent according to Jones.

With the CodeRED notification technology, Jones says that the county will now have the potential for 100 percent coverage.

“With the CodeRED system, Crenshaw County will be able to inform residents and visitors (via use of the system and the CodeRED Mobile Alert app) of weather related events, as well as other time-sensitive activities including escaped prisoners, local crime alerts, missing persons, boil water notices and more,” said Teri Friedler, Marketing Director for ECN.

“With CodeRED Weather Warnings, residents may customize the types of alerts they wish to receive and elect their preferred methods of communication. This ensures that residents can receive these life-saving notifications wherever they are physically located within the county (indoors, outdoors, etc.) and receive the notifications in the manner in which they prefer, such as a phone call, text message, email, etc.”

With this new system, citizens will be informed of not only severe weather but also other emergencies such as evacuation notices, missing person information, road closures or any other type of emergency message that needs to be sent out to the citizens of the county.

Community messages regarding utility outages, road maintenance with detour instructions or any other message with information that may affect citizens during their day-to-day normal life can also be sent via CodeRED.

“Traditionally, outdoor warning sirens are used as a form of communication and alerting in the event of tornados or other localized emergencies. However, depending upon where sirens are geographically located, they may not reach all residents, particularly those in more rural areas,” Friedler said.

“Additionally, sirens were designed to be manually deployed in times of need such as when a tornado is approaching. Residents have come to associate the sound of a siren as a warning for an impending tornado.  So while sirens are beneficial, they are not the most effective means of alerting folks to other emergency scenarios. In general, effective communications and public safety rely on the use of many dissemination tools and methods to ensure the maximum audience is notified.”

According to Jones, the sign-up process for CodeRED is very easy, and there are multiple ways to sign up for notifications.

Citizens are asked to go online and type in “Public Code Red Web” and click on the sign-up link or simply click on the link that is supplied on the Crenshaw County EMA Facebook page.

“If you have any problems or if you do not have access to the Internet, you can come by the EMA office for help,” Jones says.

“Also, I will be spending time out in communities setting up convenient locations for anyone that needs help.”

Once a person is signed up, he/she will then choose the options to receive messages on smartphones, cell phones, landline phones, emails or social media accounts.

Those with smartphones can download the CodeRED app. When notifications are sent out, not only will you receive the information, but also your Google map will appear on the screen showing you exactly what location the message pertains to.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warnings will also come to your area in a polygon grid, which will help eliminate the confusion of the weather area. If you are on the north end of the county and the weather is in the south end, then the north end will not be notified and vice versa, Jones says.

Jones says that for those who are financially not able to have any type of phone or Internet service for notifications, the EMA office can be contacted for assistance in finding alternative notification methods.

“The contracts have been signed and we are only a few weeks from being live. We have a lot of work to do, so please be patient as the EMA department works hard to make sure that we are more informed than we have ever been about critical community information,” Jones said.

“In the past, the Crenshaw County Commission has had to fund these types of programs for them to happen. This is not the case on the CodeRED project. This project is so important for the citizens that every municipality, mayor and council along with the County Commission, all worked together to make this happen for us.”

For those in need of assistance setting up their CodeRED account or to ask any other questions regarding the program, please contact the EMA office at (334) 335-4538.

“I personally want to give thanks to our seated County Commissioners, and all mayors and councils of the City of Luverne, Town of Brantley, Town of Rutledge, Town of Dozier, Town of Glenwood and the Town of Petrey. We all worked together and something wonderful is about to happen from it,” Jones said.