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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Multiple agencies reviewing mass alert system

  • Multiple agencies across Phelps County were invited Tuesday night to review a mass notification system that would alert county residents to natural disasters, road closures, boil orders and possibly even when jury duty is called off.
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  • Multiple agencies across Phelps County were invited Tuesday night to review a mass notification system that would alert county residents to natural disasters, road closures, boil orders and possibly even when jury duty is called off.
    What was stressed during the presentation was the fact that county residents would have to opt in to receive alerts and they can choose which notifications they want to receive and how they’re delivered.
    About 25 people representing municipalities, fire departments, law enforcement agencies and school districts attended the presentation at the Phelps County Courthouse of the mass notification system offered by Everbridge.
    Phelps County commissioners, County Clerk Carol Bennett and sheriff’s department personnel viewed a similar presentation by Everbridge in July.
    Via a webinar, Corey Baker, account executive with Everbridge, explained that with the company’s web-based system, various agencies can send out notifications about severe weather alerts, evacuations, power outages and even changes in trash pickup schedules.
    Baker said the company could offer all interested agencies the unlimited use system for an annual cost of $14,950, which includes $13,000 for the unlimited system and $1,950 for weather alerts.
    District One Commissioner Larry Stratman said that cost breaks down to about 33 cents per county resident per year.
    There is also a one-time setup fee, which amounts to 8 percent of the total cost.
    Baker said the product offers a chance for agencies to use it on a daily basis, not just for rare occurrences.
    With Everbridge, the alerts are sent out in a sequential order via phone calls, emails, text messages and other methods, to people who sign up.
    If no confirmation has been made that the message has been received on the first device, the notification is then sent to the second device and so on until it has been confirmed. If an alert is sent to a voicemail, that does not count as confirmation.
    Baker said this process is done so as not to overwhelm people with several messages sent to all devices at once or every 5 minutes.
    If the system was purchased, county residents could pick which notifications they want to receive, however there is an option for an agency to override that and send out a mandatory alert to all people in a specific area, such as if a train with toxic chemicals were to derail and a mandatory evacuation were ordered.
    People who sign up can choose not to be notified at certain times, such as during the night. For weather alerts, the system sends an initial alert that a storm is approaching and then an all-clear message.
    Individuals also can sign up to get alerts at various locations, such as at their home, their school, their workplace or a relative’s home in another part of the county.
    Page 2 of 2 - Agencies have the option to send notifications to specific subgroups, such as if CERT personnel are needed to be contacted after an emergency. People would need to provide this information.
    Agencies also can customize the phone number or email from where the message is sent. Baker said if someone receives a message from a 1-800 number, they may not pick up. However, if the alert comes from a local area code or familiar phone number, they may be more likely to answer.
    Baker said the system also could be set up to allow law enforcement agencies to send an evacuation order to an entire neighborhood except for the one residence they are targeting.
    Stratman said the system provides unlimited potential not only to county offices, but also within municipalities as well as fire and school districts.
    He said while it would be nice to have tornado sirens throughout the county, “this (mass alert system) is the next best thing in rural areas. I see nothing but positives.”
    Audrain, Boone, Osage, Gasconade, Montgomery and Callaway counties in Missouri along with the cities of Branson and Wentzville as well as Missouri University of Science and Technology use products from Everbridge.
    Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said he spoke with a Gasconade County commissioner, who said the county experienced trouble at first with the system but that Everbridge responded immediately to the issues.
    Stratman said there is no timeline to make a decision but asked attendees to review the system and said a decision could possibly be made by the end of the year.
    “The more entities involved, the more reasonable the cost,” Stratman said, noting the total cost would be split among the agencies interested.
    Rolla Mayor Bill Jenks asked Baker about how hackers would be prevented from sending out false messages. Baker responded that the system is compliant with the most up-to-date security protocols. It also was noted that the level of access that individuals from various agencies have can be restricted in the system.
    There also was some discussion about when public data, such as that from 911 emergency services, voter registration or assessor’s offices, could be used to send out messages or if alerts could only be sent out to people who voluntarily sign up.
    Attendees at the meeting represented the following agencies: Rolla Police Department, Phelps County Commission, Phelps County Emergency Services Board, Rolla Public Schools, Phelps County coroner’s and treasurer’s offices, Rolla City Fire and Rescue, Rolla Rural Fire Protection District, St. James Fire Protection District, St. James School District, City of St. James, City of Rolla, Phelps/Maries County Health Department, Phelps County Sheriff’s Department and Missouri State Highway Patrol.

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