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County adopts smarter emergency alerting

Berkeley County, W.Va., is implementing a public safety notification system that will send emergency alerts directly to its citizens’ cellphones, landlines and email inboxes.

To help better respond to disastrous events, the county’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (OHSEM) will soon be installing Swift911 from SwiftReach Networks, a provider of emergency notification solutions. The system uses the company’s proprietary notification delivery network to send messages via voice, text, email, fax and social media.

Residents opt-in to receive county emergency notifications by phone, text message or email, or by downloading a mobile app.

County residents can also choose to provide information that could help emergency responders better prepare for incidents in the future. This includes medical conditions or patient treatments that responders should be aware of if county roads are under extreme winter weather conditions, Randy Lilly, emergency manager with OHSEM, told The Journal. Users can choose to share as much or as little information as they would like, or they can register anonymously.

Berkeley County joins a number of municipalities signing up for enhanced 911 solutions that give dispatchers more information about callers. For example, the Mountain Valley Emergency Communication Center in New Jersey adopted Smart911 by Rave Mobile Safety in 2015. This tool lets residents upload addresses, phone numbers, health and medical information, photos and physical descriptions that participating 911 centers can access when registered citizens call from their mobile device.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.

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