August 24, 2007
Oswego County Now Has Reverse 911 System
Oswego County has a long history of emergency planning and response capabilities. For more than 25 years we've practiced for emergency situations at the nuclear power plants in Scriba. We're accustomed to severe weather and can easily implement our emergency response plans during power outages, hazardous materials spills, or other types of emergencies.
I am happy to announce that we now have an exciting new tool in emergency communications - an Internet-based reverse 911 system that allows officials to send a recorded phone message to targeted households.
Entergy Nuclear and Constellation Energy have purchased a license for the Hyper- Reach system, which allows emergency officials to reach a targeted number of people, with a recorded message, via telephone.
The Hyper-Reach software is very conducive to many applications. In many ways it's a backup system to the communications systems that we already have in place. It allows us to contact up to 10,000 households an hour and relay information. If no one's home it will leave a message on the answering machine, and if the line is busy, the system will make repeated attempts to reach the household.
Hyper-Reach can be used during missing children alerts, hostage situations or when crimes are in progress, or when large numbers of people need to be evacuated. It can also be used in non-emergency situations -- to notify a targeted neighborhood of a boil-water advisory or to let residents know about aerial spraying against mosquitoes. In the past, if an emergency notification siren malfunctioned near Nine Mile Point, residents would be alerted by law enforcement officials broadcasting a message from their vehicles. Today we have the ability to select that siren area and relay information over their phone. Everyone receives the message in a timely manner and we aren't tying up the resources of law enforcement during an emergency.
All of the software and equipment systems are located in a facility in the Rochester area. The system uses landline phone numbers provided by phone companies. Eventually county residents will also have the ability to register their cell phones to also receive reverse 911 calls.
Our 911 program coordinator, Mike Allen, is currently developing a training program for 911 supervisors. The system will be tested later this fall and other agencies will eventually be trained to use it. Because it's an Internet - based product, it can be used anywhere and at any time to provide the public with information they need.
While we're talking about 911, I'd like to take this opportunity to make another important point: I want to assure Oswego County residents that our 911 files are not routinely released to the public. A responding emergency agency, such as police or fire, can request a transcript for investigative purposes if they are involved in responding to an incident, or an investigation regarding an incident. The agency must make a request to the 911 office and the call is released only if the request is determined to be appropriate. I hope this clears up any questions that people have about calls to 911.
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