Just about a year ago, the City of Warwick contracted for an emergency notification system, CodeRED, and has found success with the program.
“I’ve heard quite a few positive things,” said Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong, who also serves as the city’s emergency management director.
Armstrong says he has only used the program four times (during Super Storm Sandy, Blizzard Nemo and twice during this week’s boil water advisory). He expects to use it again when the boil water notice is removed.
“There are four or five of us that are authorized to use the system [to send out an alert],” said Armstrong, explaining that in addition to the Fire Department and Emergency Management, the Warwick Police Department, Sewer Treatment Authority and Department of Public Works can also use the system to alert citizens of any emergencies.
Police Chief Stephen McCartney pointed out the citizens that sign up for the service will only be notified of situations that affect their neighborhoods, or important citywide information. McCartney said citywide examples are Sandy and Nemo, but citizens will also get information on very localized incidents from the police.
“We also used it last winter to notify Cowesett residents of a series of break-ins that was going on at that time,” he said.
The system can reportedly send out close to 1,000 calls per minute, but it might be even faster.
“During this boil water advisory, in a five-minute span of time I was able to reach 9,000 people,” said Armstrong, who used the system to alert those in the affected areas both on Sunday and Monday.
According to the city’s website, CodeRED is a “one of a kind Internet mapping capability for geographic targeting of calls.” It is combined with a high-speed telephone calling system to send out pre-recorded emergency messages to homes and business. Armstrong said that when signing up for the service, which is no cost to residents, one can choose to receive a phone call to a landline and/or cell phone, as well as a text message and an email.
“If you sign up for all four, you will get four messages,” said Armstrong.
The message, which can be sent in the event of various situations such as evacuations, bio-terrorism alerts, amber alerts and boil water notices, is to the point and only between two and two-and-a-half minutes long.
Armstrong said the messages are kept short so people get the message and don’t hang up before the information is delivered. In the event of an “all-clear” message, such as Armstrong is expecting to send out when the boil water notice is removed, the message would be very short.
Armstrong estimates that close to 35,000 numbers are registered in the Warwick system, with close to 150 being added in the past few days. But he does hope more businesses will take advantage of the system since Warwick is a very large commercial city. He recommends that in addition to a main business line, which can often lead to a switchboard, the email and/or cell phone of an administrator, manager or maintenance representative is included when signing up. That way, the message does get to a live individual and not just an answering service.
To sign-up for CodeRED notices, links to the online form can be found on the City of Warwick homepage, www.warwickri.gov; the link is on the right-hand side of the page towards the bottom. Sign-up takes less than two minutes. Click on the link, and you will be brought to the CodeRED website for the City of Warwick. You will need to provide an address and zip code (to your home or business), a name (personal or business) and at least one phone number. You have the option of providing a second phone number and email address as well.
If the number you enter is a cell phone, you will have to select the mobile option, select the name of your service provider from a menu and decide if you would also like to receive text messages.
Finally, if you are applying online, you can provide a username and password to edit your information in the future.
For those who do not have a computer or are uncomfortable signing up online, call the main line at the Fire Department, 468-4000 and ask to be entered into the system. Armstrong will assist with that process.