Friday, April 6, 2012

Helping Us Help You - An Intro to Emergency Alerts

As Spring rolls in and we move into Fire Season across Southwest Colorado, now is the perfect time to do some Spring cleaning. I'm not talking about polishing the furniture and cleaning the fridge. I'm talking about checking up on your ability to be notified of emergencies from the Sheriff, Emergency Management and your Fire District. La Plata County uses several forms of notification:
  • Target Notification - Emergency Alert Connect (commonly referred to as "Reverse 911") 
    • See More Below
Other Alerting options: Check out - Other Emergency Alert and Information Sources from La Plata County
  • Drive-through Sirens - Sheriff or Fire vehicles using combination of sirens and Public Address
  • Weather Radio - Emergency Management can use this system for more than weather
  • Media - We utilize newspaper, websites and commercial radio 
  • Twitter - @LPC_OEM - you don't have to have twitter to get tweets
  • La Plata County website -
  • Door-to-door - knocking door-to-door or posting letters at your property
In some situations you may have lots of time to prepare for an evacuation. You will have time to see things coming if it's been raining for 3 days and the river is slowly rising to flood levels. You will probably have time to prepare if a wildfire starts a few miles away and moves slowly. What would happen if the fire started in your subdivision or 2 inches of rain falls in an hour just up the hill?

The La Plata County Office of Emergency Management keeps a watchful eye on weather and any incident that may affect the safety of our community. We keep tabs on rain, snow and wind; listen to radio traffic about haz-mat and road closures, watch stream gauges, watch for health emergencies, listen for lock-downs and monitor land slides. We try and keep a coordinated effort from responding agencies: County Government, Sheriff, Fire/EMS, volunteer groups, and others. When we or other primary first responders see the need, we begin to notify the public. As our list of options shows, we have a lot of tools to get the message out. We will try to use the best method or combination of methods that fits the situation and our available resources

La Plata County's Emergency Alert System: Target Notification

This is the primary alerting system in La Plata County. CenturyLink land lines are automatic. All other phone types NEED TO SIGN UP!

The alert system uses phones to call a geographic area and give emergency messages. Emergency personnel pick a point on a map and give a radius or draw a boundary on a map. The system picks up LAND LINE phones associated to an address in an identified area. This means your CenturyLink (formerly QWest) phone should be picked up automatically. Other phones like Cell, Digital, Voice over IP (VoIP), Skype, Cable (phone connected to your digital TV coax cable), and other systems are NOT included; UNLESS: You register your phone with our Target Notification alert system! If you live in or own a home in La Plata County Go to Intrado's Target Notification registration page. This allows you to register multiple phones of any phone system and attach them to your address. This is what you must do to get notifications on any phone other than your land line. The registration page will ask you for your name and address. This should be your name as owner or occupant of the house. The site will also ask you to put wireless/cellular in one column and Internet based VoIP in the other.

Each phone system operates differently and uses different protocols to dial out so the numbers need to be separated.  Target Notification will not use your numbers for any other purpose than to facilitate La Plata County Emergency Calls so please don't worry about telemarketers.

It takes a few days for the system managers to verify your cell and other numbers so do it now. Don't wait till we are in the middle of a disaster. It may be too late.

You can add multiple numbers to one address. A phone number can only be associated with one address in La Plata County. You can not list your cell at more than one address.

Our emergency messages should be structured for you to understand what is happening:

  • Messages that go out will start with something like "This is an Emergency Message from The La Plata County Sheriff and Office of Emergency Management..." to let you know who is sending the message. 
  • We will issue messages like "A wildfire is spreading towards ___ subdivision north of Durango" letting you know where and in relation to what, in case you get a call on your cell while on vacation in Texas. 
  • We will give an action item of what to do like shelter in place, prepare for possible evacuation later, or to evacuate immediately. 
  • We will give you direction for what to do for the action like close doors and windows, drive South towards the high school or where the shelter is. 
  • Last will be where to get more information such as a radio station, phone number, or a place to go.
Other agencies like Fire and Police have access and their own protocols for using the alert system.

La Plata County OEM will try and do the best we can with getting messages out but remember that you need be responsible for your own personal safety. If you see smoke heading your way or a rising river, call 911 to alert authorities and do what you need to do to protect yourself and your family.

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