In the aftermath of the grizzly school shootings in Newtown, communities all over the country are re-evaluating their own emergency preparedness levels—not only their readiness to respond to a similar threat, but also their ability to effectively communicate critical information to residents.
Rocky Hill already has a system in place that enables transmission of emergency notifications to its citizens, although many are unaware of its existence. Called the CodeRED Alert System, the national network is capable of making millions of calls per hour and provides town officials with the ability to target important news and updates to inhabitants.
CodeRED is a service of the Florida-based Emergency Communications Network. Cities must pay an annual subscription for the service, but the cost to residents is free.
Towns can use CodeRED to send out both vital and non-vital notices. The system acts as a massive robo-caller, disseminating crucial information in cases such as a public safety threat or weather hazard, as well as ordinary announcements, such as the postponement of a public meeting or similar banality.
The cancellation of last week's meeting about the contested prisoner home, however, demonstrated that many citizens remain unaware of the system. CodeRED was used to notify residents that the event was scratched, yet over 50 members of the public still showed up at the site, most of them uninformed of the cancellation.
Town Manager Barbara Gilbert explained that persons with registered phone numbers would have received calls, but those with unlisted numbers would have been missed by the system. Others who would have been omitted include individuals whose phone numbers changed and those who use cell phones only.
However, skipped persons can easily add themselves to the call-list. A CodeRED enrollment link is posted on the front page of the police department website. Clicking the link brings users to the ECM site, where they can register their personal information, along with multiple phones and e-mail addresses where they desire alerts to be sent. Hearing-impaired persons can even have alerts sent to their TTY devices.
Residents who miss an initial CodeRED call can hear the designated message in its entirety by calling the system number which will appear on their phone's Caller ID. A Code Red mobile alert app is also available for cell phone users to provide an added level of notification.