All Saline County residents can now be alerted about any type of emergency through a cell phone, home phone and/or email address, as county officials have entered a contract with CodeRed Emergency Notification System.
"We've had some issues in the past with the (tornado) sirens and the weather radios. People didn't like them and we ran out of ways to notify them of severe weather," Terrell Burks, director of the Saline County Office of Emergency Management told The Saline Courier. "We looked around at various ways to notify people and officials in Bryant spoke very highly of the CodeRed System, and we decided to enter into a contract with them."
There is good reason that Burks said county officials is willing to pay $20,500 for a six month agreement. There have been issues with tornado sirens for many years, and Burks recently discovered that many people even began purposely taking the batteries out of the weather radios that were handed out to county residents. Plus, how many people living in Saline County now dropped by a local fire department to receive a weather radio? How many residents, especially those that just recently moved into the county, even know about the weather radios in the first place?
But in today's modern time, it is safe to say that a majority of residents have some type of telephone. Those that sign up to the program using a cell phone number can be notified of emergencies even when out of town.
"This system will cost the county, but it doesn't cost the residents anything," Burks said. "I think this (CodeRed) is a really good deal for everyone. All we've got to do now is get people to register."
That's the easy part. Just visit www.salinecounty.org and click the CodeRed logo on the right side of the webpage. Just a couple of minutes of registration can keep you alerted, which will be even more appreciated if the electricity in the home goes out, knocking out the tv and radio. A person can also chose options of being notified via phone call or text message and/or by email.
The City of Bryant started using CodeRed in 2008 with the main intent to notify residents for emergency purposes. But back in early 2011, the system was upgraded to notify the public of everything from non-emergency purposes such as city events or council meetings, to drinking water contamination/boil orders, utility outage, evacuation notice and route, missing person report, fires in the area, bomb threats, hostage situations, chemical spill or gas leaks, and other emergency incidents "where rapid and accurate notification is essential for life safety." Other type of non-emergency notifications can include: safety messages on burn bans and other fire-related issues; messages from the local law enforcement agencies; road closures; city festivals, carnivals, and other special events; or a variety of other important notices.
It should be noted that this Courier reporter has been on the CodeRed notification system since 2008 and typically messages concern severe weather notifications. Basically, a person isn't bombarded with unimportant phone calls or text messages.
Randy Cox, former Bryant Fire Chief who introduced CodeRed to Bryant officials in 2008, said the system is "very important" for residents and also encouraged businesses to sign up. He said it is quick, easy and could be lifesaving, as well as an information source.
"This system is only as good as the database of phone numbers supporting it," Cox said. "You also have the option of changing things in the system, for what you want to be notified about and what you don't want to be notified about. We are just trying to find ways to keep residents informed and this is a great system to rely on."
Last summer, Cox even used CodeRed to help keep residents safe amid the soaring temperatures. Through CodeRed he said 345 elderly and homebound Bryant residents were able to be checked on directly by the fire department or by neighbors to ensure their health was safe. The message sent out read, "Do us a favor; please check on your neighbor! Due to the current high temperatures with no relief in sight, we are asking all residents to check on your neighbors, especially the elderly and homebound. Please ensure that your neighbor has sufficient cooling, whether it is a fan or air conditioner, and that they are using them. Also ensure that they are drinking plenty of fluids."
The message added: "If you come across an emergency, dial 911. If you come across a resident that may need assistance with a fan for their residence, then call the Bryant Fire Department non-emergency number at 501-847-0483. Give the firefighter that answers the phone your name, address and a phone number where you can be reached; and the name and address of the person you are requesting assistance for. We will send a crew to the address to evaluate the issue and assist in any way we can."
Cox said that anyone who was found without either an air conditioning unit or a fan was "taken care of and that's all I will say on that."
Shane Knight, former planning and community director for the City of Bryant, added, "CodeRed is an ultra high-speed telephone communications service for emergency notifications, and this system is capable of dialing the entire city within minutes. It then delivers a prerecorded message describing the situations to a live person or an answering machine in the affected area, possibly including instructions requiring immediate action on the part of the recipient."
Burks told the Courier on Friday that residents from Bryant that are already signed up for CodeRed do not have to register again. He also said that residents in Hot Springs Village that previously signed up for a similar program also do not have to register as CodeRed took over that system and will be added into the system for Saline County.
Burks also said that at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, residents should receive a 60 second non-emergency message from CodeRed as a system test.
To sign up or for more information, visit www.salinecounty.org or call 303-5600.