Reverse 911 system not without glitches
ASPEN After two recent gas leaks prompted law enforcement officials to evacuate areas using reverse 911 calls, officials now say the system is not 100 percent effective.”Most of my neighbors got a call. However, we didn’t get a call. To me, that’s a little disturbing,” said Amanda Virtue, who lives near the Maroon Creek Club, which was evacuated July 14 after a gas leak on Pfister Drive. It was the second gas leak in two weeks requiring evacuation and use of the reverse 911 system.Whether for wildfires, floods, gas leaks or other actual or potential disasters, reverse 911 has been a tool for local officials for more than four years, said Mark Gamrat, director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Communications Center. It’s just one of many ways officials get the word out in case of emergency, and there are still some minor glitches in the system, he said.
“It’s definitely not foolproof,” Gamrat said. “It’s not meant to be 100 percent.”In the event of a catastrophe, an incident commander can use reverse 911 to call people in the affected area. Those who receive the call will hear recorded instructions for what to do, Gamrat said.”It’s a pretty powerful tool for us,” he said.Gamrat said communications officials can use a pinpoint system within a certain radius or draw a vector based on wind or other conditions to call in a funnel pattern.According to Gamrat, because many people have cordless phones that don’t work without power, reverse 911 is just one of many tools, including knocking on doors and getting out into neighborhoods.Virtue said she was not informed properly.”Nobody knocked on our door, either,” Virtue said. “I didn’t know there was a gas leak until I read it in the paper online the next day. … Why didn’t I get a call? What if it was a really bad gas leak?”Virtue said gas could have built up in her home, and her children could have caused an explosion by turning on an appliance.”The entire area was evacuated,” she said. Gamrat said Pitkin County officials are working on creating a reverse 911 system for people without land lines. Cell-phone users would be able to register their number with an online call bank, and in the event of an emergency near their home they would be called, Gamrat said.Reverse 911 for cell phones and pagers is already in place in Eagle County and available to anyone, with emergency updates for any major events along the Interstate 70 corridor. For details, visit http://www.ecalert.orgCharles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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