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Reverse 911 service goes live for county

A new early-warning system that will help notify users of emergencies in Hood River County is now live and public safety agencies are encouraging local residents to sign up for the service.

Known as Reverse 911, the system allows local law enforcement, fire departments, and local governmental agencies to contact subscribers via phone call, email, and/or text message in case there is an emergency occurring near their residence, such as a fire, gas leak, severe weather, or a road closure. The system will continue to contact subscribers until they send a confirmation that they have received the message.

Hood River County Sheriff Matt English said the system will save time for emergency agencies in situations when time can sometimes be of the essence. Previously, when there was an emergency situation, deputies would have to go house-to-house notifying residents, such as during last summer’s Government Flats fire that burned 11,000 acres southwest of The Dalles and crossed over into the far eastern portions of Hood River County.

English said though this practice won’t completely go away, he noted Reverse 911 is “certainly going to be a lot faster than deputies going door-to-door” and will cut down the number of houses deputies will have to contact in case of an emergency. He also said the system does not “just go down the line calling people,” but notifies all of the selected subscribers at the same time. It can also select residents in a specific area to contact, as opposed to sending out messages to all subscribers in the county.

English described the county’s system, which is operated by an American mass notification company called Everbridge, as “really high-tech,” with an internal notification system that allows law enforcement and fire departments to talk to each other and request mutual aid during emergencies. He also said it could be used to request the aid of members of volunteer groups such as the Crag Rats, who often work with the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office during mountain rescues.

“It has a great reputation,” he said of the Everbridge platform, “it’s affordable, and it has the ability to expand services.”

The $7,000 annual cost of the service is divvied up amongst the county, the cities, law enforcement and the fire departments. For citizens, though, subscribing to the service is free.

To sign up, go to the Hood River County website at http://www.co.hood-river.or.us/ and click on the link in the center of the screen that says, “Click Here to sign up now!!” From there, users are asked to register for the service and create a user name and password, input their contact information and their desired method(s) of notification.

English said signing up for the service is “very easy,” but added that the county plans to have some public sign-up events to help people who have questions or are having difficulties registering for it, as well as to promote the service.

“You have to get people to sign up for it to be effective,” he said.

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