BERLIN — Berlin officials this week approved the purchase of a mass notification system to alert residents of a wide variety of emergencies from pending severe weather to power outages.
The Berlin Mayor and Council on Tuesday approved the purchase of the Code Red mass notification system, a multi-tiered communication system that will alert residents via text, phone message or email of a current or pending emergency situation. Developed by Emergency Communication Network, the system is increasingly used by towns, counties, colleges and universities to alert citizens of active or potential dangers.
“It will enable us in times of an emergency such as a power outage, a water main break or severe weather to reach out to as many residents all at once,” said Deputy Town Administrator Mary Bohlen. “Really, anything we would want to get out to a lot of people in the shortest amount of time.”
Once the system has been implemented in Berlin, residents will be advised on how to get texts or other messages about emergencies.
“It allows us to reach out to people in many ways, including texts, phone messages and emails,” she said. “It allows people to know we’re aware of the problem and we’re on top of it in a proactive way. In a lot of ways, it could reduce the number of calls coming into town hall when there is an emergency because it lets people know what’s going on in a proactive way.”
Bohlen said the Code Red mass notification system will give residents updates on conditions from power outages to weather events and other emergencies.
“A final notification will go out when the problem is resolved,” she said. “If, for example, we had a power outage and we fixed it, but somebody or some street was still without power, we could direct our efforts to that one specific area.”
Questions were raised about the coverage of the system and the segment of the population that is not text or email savvy. Councilmember Lisa Hall said a similar system is in place with the local school system and it is achieving the desired results.
Police Chief Arnold Downing said the system is effective in getting the word out about emergency situations and natural and man-made disasters, but also has other practical implications. He said the system can be used to alert residents of special events, temporary road closures, traffic pattern changes and the like.
“This system allows us to do messages about special events and other town news, it’s not just for emergencies,” he said. “People can opt out of receiving certain messages if they don’t want to get a text about every single special event, for example. Every department in town can use the system to get their important messages out.”