County has new way to contact residents
Aspen Times Staff Writer
County authorities now have the ability to contact local residents quickly and automatically in the event of an emergency.
The Pitkin County dispatch office has a new computer system known as the Emergency Preparedness Network that dials up to 2,000 phone numbers per minute. The system, which uses a prerecorded message, can be used to send out warnings about anything from wildfire evacuation instructions to information on violent jail escapees.
The technology automatically calls phone numbers within a certain area specified by authorities. At a Tuesday press conference, communications director Mark Gamrat demonstrated how the system could call all phone numbers within a certain radius of any given point in Pitkin County.
The network searches quickly for all of the phone numbers using the county’s enhanced 911 database, which includes even unlisted numbers.
For example, the system can call some 10,747 phone numbers within a one-mile radius of a location in downtown Aspen. Sheriff Bob Braudis said the system would be exceptionally helpful in the event of a wildfire during which fire experts were able to predict the direction and speed of a burn toward a developed area.
Besides pinpointing an area from which to draw a radius, authorities can also use the system to highlight a more specific area, such as a subdivision with a power outage, said Gamrat.
When a phone number is busy, the system will call back twice. Gamrat said the recorded message, which can be left on answering machines, begins with “This is an emergency notification message” to get the attention of the person who answers the phone.
In addition, the call can be placed twice to each phone number to deliver the message in Spanish and English.
The Enhanced 911 Committee, made up of local first-responders, including Braudis and Police Chief Loren Ryerson, elected to use some of the 70-cent surcharge on monthly phone bills to purchase the system. Gamrat said the cost of the network includes a $15,300 startup fee and a $1,500 monthly fee. The system charges 23 cents per phone it calls.
Businesses, such as hotels, that have a number of different extensions based on one phone number will only receive one phone call, Gamrat said, and it’s up to that business to ensure that everyone there gets the message.
The recorded message includes potential instructions and could include phone numbers to call, places to go or radio stations to listen to for more information.
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