, 2015

Town’s new citizen alert
system due a test run June 3

KILMARNOCK—Kilmarnock is rolling out a “reverse 911” program.
by Renss Greene

The town’s new CodeRED system allows staff to notify people of ongoing or upcoming disruptions and emergencies on an extremely localized, street-by-street basis. The system can send calls, text messages, and emails to residents, business owners, and others signed up with the system.

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The town will send out informational flyers with water bills for the next two months. There will be a test call to all numbers from 10 a.m. to noon June 3.

“In an emergency situation, it’s going to give people information that they didn’t have before,” said deputy town manager Susan Cockrell. “So rather than waking up and finding out that I don’t have water today, or finding out that my water is perhaps a different color, we’ll be able to call them proactively and say, hey, guess what, hydrants were flushed yesterday, and you’ll need to do these things.”

Similar systems are already in place in Lancaster and Northumberland counties. It can be used for weather and public safety emergencies, and participants can opt in to other general information such as road closures or utility interruptions.

“We expect this to be especially helpful in a major event such as a hurricane,” said town manager Tom Saunders.

Town staff expects to use CodeRED most often for utility outages. Cockrell recalled dealing with a recent water problem, which could have been helped with the new system.

“We had to shut water off, and it was in the middle of the night,” Cockrell said. “When you do that, you want to do two things. You want to take care of the problem, and you want to put all your resources on stopping the leak, patching the hole, restoring service, and you don’t want to spend your resources going door to door saying, by the way, for the next three or four hours you’re not going to be able to flush.”

Landline numbers, which are publicly available, will be added to the CodeRED database automatically, but interested parties can sign up other contact information such as cell phone numbers and email addresses. Signing up is not exclusive to Kilmarnock residents and business owners. Users can sign up to be notified about problems at any address in town.

“I think that’s great for people who are away from home during the day, but they’d like to know that the water went off in their home during the course of the day,” Cockrell said. “I think it’s great for absentee owners. I think it’s great for people in my situation that are adult children that are caring for an elderly parent, where you want to know what’s happening.”

In an emergency or other situation, the system calls only those people affected by the event. Emergency messages show a caller ID of 866-419-5000. General messages, such as utility outages or road closures, have a caller ID of 855-969-4636. After the message, you can press any button to repeat the message, and if you already hung up, you can dial back to hear it again.

There is also a mobile app available from Google Play or the Apple App Store. The app provides emergency, general, and missing persons alerts for your location. A weather alert add-on for the app is available for purchase.

“The app is unique because, for example, if we have a Kilmarnock resident who is traveling to another state that also uses the CodeRED system, they will receive any community or emergency alerts from that specific area as well,” said town manager Tom Saunders. “It’s just one extra way to stay safe when you’re away from home.”

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