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Text Alerts Could Offer City Residents and Employees Heads-Up in Emergencies

City officials are supportive of a wireless emergency notification system that enables dispatchers to send a text, email and phone call during emergencies. The system was discussed at Monday night's North Canton City Council meeting.

Emergency notifications — like a heads up about a flood, missing child or boil alert — could be making their way to North Canton employees and residents via text message, email and phone call soon.

City officials discussed the Wireless Emergency Notification System (WENS) that makes spreading the word about emergencies more efficient at Monday night's North Canton City Council meeting.

"We can notify numerous phones, numerous texts, numerous emails at the touch of a button," said Chief John Bacon, who led the discussion about the system that night.

It works in a few ways: For one, department heads can notify their specific employees. Groups could range from City Council to snow plow crews to police officers.

All alerts to city employees are at no cost to the city, Bacon said.

Mass alerts also could go out to hundreds of residents at a time. A police dispatcher could pinpoint a specific block, a ward or group of houses to receive the alerts.

Those alerts are free, except for texts, which cost $.17 a text message.

Council President Jon Snyder, Ward 4, supported the notification system.

"It would benefit us to be a part of the system," Snyder said. "We can contact the residents in case of any kind of peril whatsoever."

Right now, the city can contact residents through a landline reverse emergency notification system that's provided through an existing Canton system, Bacon said.

City Administrator Michael Grimes said the notification system would come in handy in cases such as flooding and for residents along the Zimber Ditch. The city plans to set up a trigger there that will alert dispatchers when waters rise to flooding levels.

The city faces a five-year contract, of which the first two years are free, and it will be billed quarterly if it signs on to the notification system.

Council members supported moving forward with the notification system. The contract must be signed by June 1.

Hillary May 08, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Wow that is such a great idea. What I want to know is how the city is going to know before me that my basement is under 3 feet of water at 2 in the morning. Maybe the city should reverse the program and give us residents all the council members and mayors cell phone numbers and we can text you at 2 am when our homes are flooded. Another fantastic idea!

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