Emergency alert app bolsters government, police ties in Johnson County

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JUNE 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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Johnson County officials say the implementation of a new emergency-notification system has strengthened the relationship between local government and law-enforcement officials.

The Emergency Communications Network adapted to the world of smart phones and created an app for roughly 50 million people nationwide in the past year. The free CodeRED Emergency Notification System app is available for both iPhone and Androids. The notification system was first made available for Johnson County residents in 2008 through telephone calls.

Johnson County Supervisor Pat Harney said the smart-phone app allows Emergency

Communications Network to work more closely with law-enforcement officers.

"I think it's very important," he said. "It has a very good base to notify people if anything is going on, and it would notify people, and they can do that quickly through the phone system."

According to the Emergency Communications Network website, the app comes with a complimentary 30-day trial of CodeRED Weather Warning — a program that sends notifications to subscribers in a projected path of severe weather.

Subscribers may also upgrade their accounts to receive customized weather alerts based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service bulletins for an annual fee of $4.99.

David DiGiacomo, the president and CEO of Emergency Communications Network, said the service is a nationwide alert and notification platform local government officials may use to notify events in their jurisdictions. The notification system reaches roughly 50 million people nationwide, according to the website.

CodeRED calls people within a certain radius who would be affected by the emergency at hand before the app was created. The emergency could consist of anything from a tornado warning, any other severe weather, or a missing-child alert.

The smart-phone app allows users to customize the alerts they would like to receive.

"Say you're driving in a certain area, and there's a tornado warning, and you would get a notification," said B.J. Dvorak, plans officer for Johnson County Homeland Security & Emergency Management Agency. "It works through your phone's GPS."

DiGiacomo said it was important for people to sign up for the phone calls in their area prior to the app's creation.

"There is no guarantee that every single person is in [the database] because of the rate that phone numbers change," he said.

The app, DiGiacomo said, essentially eliminates the phone-call aspect of emergency notifications and makes the service more user-friendly.

The customization aspect of the app is beneficial to users because it is a nationwide service, DiGiacomo said.

"We have thousands of cities and counties that utilize this service," he said.

After setting up personal preferences in the apps, the users will only be notified for alerts in the area in which they live and their personal settings.

"You can set it up within 10 miles so it will go off in a certain radius that you come in contact with," Dvorak said.

The app makes the service more efficient by not notifying people with a phone call after an event has ended or changed, Dvorak.

"If we were to send one out, the weather will change so fast," he said. "But with the app, you can customize it, you can turn on or off the settings that you want to be notified for."

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