It is severe weather season in the Mountain West, when life and death can depend on speed and accuracy of emergency notifications.
To help alert residents to emergencies, some Montana counties are turning to a notification tool that can deliver relevant, location-based alerts in about a minute.
It is called CodeRED. It's essentially a reverse 911 service.
KC Williams, Yellowstone County’s Disaster and Emergency Services Director, says it’s the most widely used public notification system of its type in the country.
“County emergency officials can send out emergency alerts via land lines, cellphone lines, email texts and social media to alert the public in the event there is a significant event occurring,” Williams says.
Information from CodeRED GooglePlay says “CodeRED is fully integrated with the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) to send alerts via the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio and other public alerting systems.”
These alert can be for severe weather, tornadoes, fires or floods, chemical spills, evacuation notices or missing or dangerous persons.
Williams says at least 13 counties in Montana have CodeRED. They include Yellowstone, Stillwater, Big Horn, Cascade, Madison and Chouteau. Yearly costs can vary. Williams says it costs Yellowstone County $25,000 a year.
Stillwater County DES Coordinator Carol Arkell says she has used to alert residents to fire danger and has been pleased with the results. She says they have put a lot of work into the system. She is especially excited about its potential to alert people at big events, like the NITRO National Pro Hillclimb in Columbus, MT, should an emergency occur.
“We can put the area in the system,” Arkell says, “so if an emergency comes up, we can launch that and everyone in that’s in that system will get the notification that something’s going on and what they are supposed to do.”
To receive CodeRED notifications, a person signs up either through a phone app, through the CodeRED website, or your county’s website if it has CodeRED. Once a user signs up for CodeRED, he or she will receive these alerts when traveling round Montana or around the country.