Pitkin County to launch new alert system

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County will launch a new and improved emergency-alert system next week and is reminding area residents to make sure they’ve signed up to receive the notifications.

Some 3,300 people who already were receiving notifications via the PitkinAlert system are being urged to create a new account online at (about half of them have done so already), and residents who have never signed on with the system are encouraged to do so, said Bruce Romero, director of emergency communications for the county.

What was previously two separate systems has been combined into one, generating the need to sign up again for those who had already registered to receive Pitkin Alerts, Romero explained. He’s hoping to see all 3,300 people re-register and increase the total number of participants to 10,000 or more.

Here’s why: The system sends out emergency notifications via a telephone call. In the event of a wildfire or some other crisis in a particular geographic area, for example, the system will send out a warning to affected residents via a phone call. The phone numbers for traditional telephone land lines, including unlisted numbers, are already in the system, but individuals who rely solely on cellphones or have their telephone service via the Internet need to sign on in order to provide the county with their contact numbers, Romero explained.

Separate from the emergency-notification system, the county sends out Pitkin Alerts to communicate information about everything from traffic accidents and hazardous conditions on Highway 82 to severe-weather forecasts, a wildfire threat or an evacuation notice. The alerts can be sent to land-line telephones, to cellphones via a call or text message, through emails and via TTY messages to the hearing-impaired.

Those who don’t want a blast alert about every accident or slippery road can arrange to receive only the alerts they do want. Signing up is free, and a user can pick and choose how they want to be notified and about what.

The system covers all of Pitkin County plus areas of Eagle County in the Roaring Fork Valley and stretching up the Fryingpan Valley, as well as the Marble area in Gunnison County, according to Romero.

A new upgrade with the system gives residents the ability to interact with the system – letting it know they’ve received an alert or warning.

“Before, the system just blasted the message. Whether you got it or not, we’d never know,” Romero said. “From a public-safety standpoint, that could be very useful for us.”

The recipient of an alert isn’t required to respond, but if the system gets no reply to a text message, for example, it will then resend the alert via another means – email for example – depending on how the user prioritizes the means by which they’d like to receive alerts.

The new, combined system required about $2,100 in startup costs and will cost the county about $90 more per year than it was paying for the two separate systems, Romero said.