The blizzard of 2013 left many in the community feeling stranded, with it taking 48-hours or longer to clear a path on the town's final roads, but an emergency notification system system like that used in Cheshire could help to curb some of the anxiety caused by residents.
The town is exploring whether it would be beneficial to purchase a Reverse 911 or other emergency notification system for the community, a program which would allow the town to send automated messages to residents to improve communication in the event of an emergency, whether it be related to the weather or in responding to a major police or fire related incident that requires notification to residents.
It’s a concept that was brought forward by Southington Town Council member John Barry after dozens of residents expressed frustration to him about being stranded in three or more feet of snow and not knowing when, or even if, help was coming for them.
“I’m not sure why I was on the list, but I received a reverse 911 call from the town of Cheshire and I believe it eased residents concerns,” Barry said. “Their message clear and in times like (the blizzard), when you have a reverse 911 system to inform people, it calms nerves and give assurances will not be snowed in forever.”
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These systems aren’t new to the community. The Board of Education already has one in place which is used to contact parents and staff in case of emergencies within the school district. This can be used for one school or for the district as a whole and parents sign up at the start of the year.
But when it comes to town needs, Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said the town is unfortunately at the mercy of the state when it comes to sending any alerts.
“Right now all we have is the state run 'Everbridge' system which has criteria that limits this type of posting,” he said.
Representatives of Cassidian Communications, a company that specializes in emergency notification systems, said Wednesday that there are numerous variations that could be installed based on a communities need and frequency of use.
In such, prices vary drastically but typical systems for municipal use would range anywhere from $40,000 to $75,000 to install with an annual cost to keep the system active and up-to-date afterwards.
The town has not released a list of any companies it may have contacted or would be considering for such a system.
The company’s website details certain features of the system including the following:
- Easy-to-use, browser-based application, employing standard Windows navigation.
- Quick and easy activation of notification sessions with results captured in comprehensive reports for communications compliance a full audit trail.
- E9-1-1 or commercial data ready, enabling quick and easy imports for faster system implementation.
- Optional Self-Registration Portal (SRP), allowing individuals to proactively register for REVERSE 911 notifications.
- Automatic updating of information (i.e., phone numbers) following touchtone input by call recipients, ensuring data integrity.
- Map- and list-based communications capabilities.
- Customizable mapping display using industry-standard GIS tools.
- Geo-dimensional calling capabilities (e.g., donut shape, directional calling, etc.)
- Interactive surveying tool, allowing individuals to express concerns or opinions on key issues, community services and more.
Barry said it may be too early to determine if it is the right move for the town, but an emergency notification system could help address a perceived problem that needs to be addressed: communication with the public.
“One thing was clear, we need better communication and to find a get to get the word out,” he said. “What Cheshire did, it seemed to be a reassuring means of reaching out. In the future, we need to have better communication with the residents and this is one way that could help.”
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