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New Equipment Uses Cell Phones, Computers To Warn Of Danger

The county’s plan calls for emergency dispatch operations to feed emergency information county residents who have supplied either a phone number or e-mail.

Cell phone

Photo: Will Merydith (Flickr)

Reverse 911 takes information and disseminates it to people in the area where the warning is most pertinent.

CORRECTION: “Reverse 911″ is a trademark of Cassidian Communications.  Its use in a previous version of this story has been discontinued.

Bartholomew County officials appear close to purchasing equipment designed to use cell phones and computers to warn residents of a variety of dangers.

It’s the opposite of a traditional 911 system, which requires people to call in dangers to dispatchers.  Columbus officials hope to take such information and disseminate it to people in the area where the warning is most pertinent.

Bartholomew County Council President Bill Lentz says the county and the city of Columbus will split the yearly bill for the system.

“For example, something’s happening out on Interstate 65, by the Taylorsville Mall here – we can key in the people in that area and not worry about folks in the northwest portion of the county,” Lentz says.

The county will end up paying a little more than $8,000 annually and the city will pick up between $12,000 and $13,000.

Bartholomew County Emergency Operations 911 Center Director Ed Reuter says officials examined a number of computerized systems before deciding that one designed by a California company called Everbridge best suited the county’s needs. Reuter says plans for an emergency notification system were first considered four years ago – when the county could have used such a warning system.

“When we really started looking into this was after June 7, 2008 – the flood. Because at that time we felt we just didn’t have a real good way of communicating with the citizens about high waters and flooding all the things that go along with that,” Reuter says.

The county’s plan calls for emergency dispatch operations to feed information into the system on a range of possible dangers, from weather to civil emergencies to jailbreaks. That information can then be relayed to county residents who have supplied their home address and either a phone number or e-mail by which they’d like to be notified.

Lentz says the county council has yet to cast a vote to adopt the operation or approve its funding.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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