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This is pretty cool
Reverse 911 to alert residents of emergencies
System will get town-wide launch
by Ria Megnin
In 1963, the national Emergency Broadcast System was created to allow the president to address the entire country in case of emergency. Its use of radio and television was later expanded to address state and local emergencies.

Holden now has its own variation on that program: a software system called "Reverse 911" that can send recorded messages to telephone customers throughout the community. Purchased by the Holden Municipal Light Department, it was installed this summer and set up with a list of all phone numbers in Holden, updated weekly by Verizon.

"ItÕs up and running," Light Department and Town Manager Brian Bullock said. "We used it for one small launch on Causeway Street. WeÕre planning a general launch to the entire community in September or sometime this fall."

The ability to immediately share critical information town-wide not only helps keep residents safe, it allows emergency staff to handle the situation without having to field dozens or hundreds of questions. "We get a flood of calls when an outage occurs," Bullock said.

How it works

Town staff can use Reverse 911 software to record messages and send them to all Holden residents or to targeted areas. For instance, Holden has four main electric feeders serving its customers. Reverse 911 can send alerts about the cause and expected duration of a power outage to the residents of one or more feeder areas, once templates for those zones are set up. If flooding occurs in one section of town, staff can point, click and drag a zone around the neighborhoods the program should call.

Residents will hear a recording of town staff explaining the emergency situation. The program can leave messages on answering machines.

Besides power outages, Reverse 911 can be used for fires, water line breaks, police alerts about dangerous criminals or abductions in the area, and other serious situations. Bullock said the program wonÕt be used for weather alerts except for extreme emergencies such as tornadoes, or to inform residents about emergency shelters during blizzards or hurricanes.

Holden phone subscribers canÕt opt out of emergency messages, but can ask to be removed from the list for general information notices. Bullock said Reverse 911 may also be used to let people know when the seasonÕs recreation schedule is released, the dates for town meeting or the annual Earth Day collection, etc.

A Reverse 911 call will be made this fall to all phone subscribers, explaining the system and allowing residents to opt out of general calls.
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