New emergency call system warned Storey residents of slick roads
December 18, 2006
Phones began ringing at 7:47 p.m. Saturday in more than 1,000 Storey County homes. The voice on the phone was that of Dave Ballard, Storey County communications director, and this was the first time he had a chance to try out a new warning system purchased in November.
The computerized call warned of hazardous road conditions throughout the county and advised residents not to travel.
The system is created by CityWatch Online, a Minnesota-based company, and it allows communities to call every phone number in their jurisdiction to warn of emergencies.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive responses. There were a few little glitches that we’re working out,” he said.
In addition to weather emergencies, Ballard said it will be used in cases of wildland fires, gas leaks and even missing children. He said authorities can use the system to alert residents of the entire county or just segments.
“We can even limit it to residents of one street,” he said.
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Not everyone in Storey County received a call, and Ballard said he wants to hear from those who didn’t.
“If anyone did not get notified, they should contact me so that they can be notified,” he said.
He said of the 3,162 phone numbers listed in the county, 61 percent or 1,936 people, received calls.
Ballard said there are many reasons a resident failed to get a call, including someone with dial-up Internet service being online, if a number is for a fax machine or if there is trouble with overused circuits.
If residents have Caller ID, the identification comes up as “out of area,” which some people block or don’t answer. Ballard said he was working on getting a different identification to be displayed.
Also, residents who have voice-over Internet services weren’t contacted because the telephone company, where the county gets the numbers, doesn’t have access to that information.
“They need to call to allow us to put them on the list,” Ballard said.
The system calls about 30 numbers every 10 seconds or so, then tallies up the ones where calls didn’t go through, such as lines that were busy, then calls back, he said.
He said he was also hoping to include cell phone numbers to the list.
According to Pat Whitten, Storey County’s director of administration and budget, the system cost $10,000, with half of that paid for by the Storey County School District, which uses it to inform parents of school closures, delays and similar situations.
The county emergency management system can also alert residents through a channel on local cable TV, the Storey County Web site and emergency whistles in Virginia City, Lockwood, the Virginia City Highlands and the Mark Twain estates.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111, ext. 351.
Who to contact
If you are a Storey County resident and didn’t receive a call from the Storey County emergency system Saturday night, call Dave Ballard at 847-0930, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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