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Douglas County Praises New Emergency Alert System

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The Code Red emergency alert system (credit: CBS)

The Code Red emergency alert system (credit: CBS)

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) – Coloradoans have learned emergency notifications save lives when a disaster strikes, but during the Lower North Fork Fire in Jefferson County some people never received an alert call. Now all agencies in Douglas County are hoping a new system will prevent that.

If there’s a house fire in a specific neighborhood, instead of alerting a whole zip code, the dispatcher can now pick which blocks — even streets — to notify. Once the call goes out, residents get a message detailing what’s happened.

“It’s one tool in the tool box,” Norris Croom with Castle Rock Fire and Rescue said.

Castle Rock’s new system called “Code Red” is built to reach people in their home, on their cellphone, and even via email.

“The ease of use for the dispatcher, the person sending out the message, was significant,” Croom said.

It’s simple and precise. The dispatcher can set up a radius to call, or click and drag the area they want to alert, right down to the house.

“That then will tell me how many contacts are in this area that’s highlighted,” Communications Manager Cindy Dieck said.

Then the call goes out.

“We can have all of that done in a minute,” Dieck said.

Calls will automatically go out to landlines, but as many learned the hard way in the Lower North Fork Fire, residents have to register their cellphone or email address with the county. A huge sign up campaign is now under way in Douglas County.

“If you haven’t registered for the system on your wireless device, you may not get that notification,” Croom said.

The national average for emergency alert notifications reaching their target is 70 percent. Castle Rock got their first crack at the new system last week for a natural gas explosion that leveled a house.

“About 1,900 calls went out. Out of those 1,900, my understanding was that there were 180 or so that, for whatever reason, did not connect or did not get answered,” Croom said. “So if you look at that, that’s about 10 percent of that call volume, so that’s about a 90 percent rate.”

So far it’s only for Douglas County residents. To sign up, visit crgov.com/codered.

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