The City of Columbus and Bartholomew County are offering residents and businesses the chance to receive emergency alerts through automated phone calls, text messages and emails by signing up online for the local emergency notification system.
This free service will be used to alert the public of life-threatening emergencies, such as weather warnings or disasters, and also can notify citizens of boil water advisories, poor travel conditions, detours and other public safety information. Emergency notifications will be sent out through the Bartholomew County Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Operations 911 Center or Columbus City Utilities.
“Public safety is the top priority for the City of Columbus and Bartholomew County, and this emergency notification system has been one of our major joint initiatives,” Mayor Kristen Brown said. “This system provides tremendous value to our residents by giving them advanced warning of emergency situations. For example, in the event of a flood, residents can be notified in time to quickly gather their most precious items and safely evacuate their homes along routes defined by our new flood response plan.”
In the event of an emergency, a 911 dispatcher can identify the affected neighborhood or region of the county and prepare a message that describes the situation and recommends protective actions that residents should take. The notification system will automatically call all listed telephone numbers within that geographic area and deliver the message. If phone lines are busy, the system redials those numbers again to make contact, or leaves a message if an answering machine or voicemail picks up.
The system also can distribute text messages and emails. Residents can select their preferred method of receiving notifications when signing up for the system. When messages are sent, residents can confirm they received the notification with a simple button press on their phone, or a short text message or email reply.
The system already has been tested once, alerting some residents of the blizzard warning issued by the National Weather Service on Christmas day and subsequent travel watch the following day.
Mayor Brown and the Bartholomew County Commissioners are urging all residents and businesses to opt into the system to receive emergency notifications on their landline telephones, cellphones or other devices. Opting in can be done easily by clicking on the "Citizen Alert Notification Sign Up" icon above or going to this site. Individuals who may need assistance can contact the City of Columbus Fire or Police departments, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, the County’s Emergency Operations Center, or visit the Bartholomew County Public Library for help signing up. Residents also can call 379-1500 with questions.
“We can now alert the public of natural or man-made disasters, such as floods or chemical spills, warn them when severe weather is moving into our area and keep them informed of other important public safety situations,” said Ed Reuter, director of Bartholomew County Emergency Operations. “This system provides us with a vital link to our residents.”
The City of Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety and the Bartholomew County Commissioners both approved funding last year for the service provided by Everbridge. The total annual cost of the service is $20,650, with the City picking up about 59 percent, which is $12,208. The County will fund the remaining 41 percent. The cost split is based on the percentage of Bartholomew County residents who live in the city and outside of city limits. The City and County will each pay its share from cable and communication user fees rather than local tax revenue.
The Interlocal Cooperation Agreement will be administered by a Joint Board consisting of the Bartholomew County Emergency Management Director, the Director Of Emergency 911 Center, the Bartholomew County Information Technology Director, the City Emergency Management Director, the Director of Columbus City Utilities, the Columbus Information Technology Director, one member from the Bartholomew County Commissioners, and one member from the Columbus City Board Of Works.
“The emergency notification system is a great tool to help us reduce loss of life and property by allowing everyone to prepare for emergencies in our community,” said Dennis Moats, director of Bartholomew County Emergency Management.
The Emergency Operations Center will conduct monthly tests of the emergency alert notification system on the first Friday of the month during business hours. Tornado tests will also be conducted on the same day at noon every month.