By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- A new alert system could warn Shenandoah County residents of tornadoes or tell them about nearby earthquakes.
The locality this week joined others in the Northern Shenandoah Valley to offer a service which sends alerts via e-mail, cell phone or land-line telephones.
The DeltAlert mass notification program launched Monday and residents already have begun signing up to use the service, according to Debbie Francis, emergency communications chief for Shenandoah County. DeltAlert mirrors the services used in other localities, she noted. This marks the first time the county has used a mass notification system, Francis said. A federal grant for $12,500 paid for the service, according to Francis.
"I would use it for the tornado that hit last spring," Francis said.
DeltAlert allows officials in law enforcement and emergency management to record and send an unlimited number of personalized voice messages to residents, businesses and mobile phones in minutes, Francis explained. The service also can broadcast messages in text, e-mail and TTY/TDD formats, she noted.
Agencies can use DeltAlert to notify the public in case of tornadoes, floods, winter-weather events, as well as evacuations, man-made disasters such as chemical spills, Amber alerts and searches for missing senior citizens.
Francis acknowledged the service also could help notify the many residents who work outside the area.
"If they're down in [Washington] D.C. and we have a need to notify the citizens, say, of Strasburg, they'll be working in D.C. but they will still get it and it'll say possible, potential problems at home," Francis said.
The county could have used DeltAlert to notify residents about the forest fire in Wolf Gap last week but mainly to warn en masse that the incident had closed Wolf Gap Road, Francis said. The alert would have warned subscribers to stay away from the area affected by the fire, she said.
Emergency management officials still are figuring out how to use the service to communicate closures on Interstate 81, according to Francis.
Law enforcement and emergency management officials can target each message sent to residents and groups. Authorized users also may contact residents based on location using a mapping feature included in the service.
The system automatically includes publicly available residential and business phones in Shenandoah County.
The county encourages residents to visit the Department of Fire and Rescue's website at www.scfr.net, or the general site at www.shenandoahcountyva.us, and select "Sign up now." A resident may enter multiple phone numbers and e-mail addresses to his or her contact list. DeltAlert automatically falls back to other available modes if the primary contact fails.