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Mecklenburg County begins signups for emergency alerts

SoVaNow.com / December 14, 2016


Mecklenburg County has a new emergency notification system. Ben Duncan, the county’s director of Emergency Communications, made the announcement at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

The 911 Communication Center will begin using Everbridge Resident Alerts to communicate with citizens and businesses during emergencies and other critical events, Duncan explained.

He encouraged Mecklenburg residents to register with the system immediately to receive these alerts.

Residents can opt into the system by texting ALERTMECK to 888777 on their cell phones. You can register online at http://www.mecklenburgva.com and further click on the “Alert Mecklenburg” link. Or, Duncan said, you can paste the following link into your browser: https://member.everbridge.net/index/453003085615049.

When the Everbridge site opens, click on the “Sign Up” button to add your information to the notification system. He has paper copies of the registration forms available at the County Administrator’s office. Anyone with questions can call Stacey Allen at 434738-1691 ext. 4367 or sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Duncan said online registrants will be asked to create an account, which includes:

» Creating a username. Usernames must be a minimum of four acceptable characters: uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, periods, dashes (-), underscores (_), or the “at” symbol (@). No other charters or symbols are permitted.

» Creating a password. Passwords must be 8 to 64 characters long and contain at least one letter and one number. Special characters are permitted, but are limited to the following symbols: !@#$ percent^&*()

» Selecting a security questions and entering its answer.

» Entering a registration email address, which is used to send temporary passwords, if you forget your credentials.

» Accepting the terms of use by checking the box provided.

» Clicking “Create your Account.”

Once residents have a user name and password, Duncan said they’ll be asked to provide personal information and indicate by what means they wish to receive alerts — text messages, email, mobile phone, landline or mobile apps. They’ll also select which alert subscriptions they wish to sign up for, community alerts, transportation alerts and weather notifications. And they can set up quiet hours during which most calls will be blocked.

Some emergency messages will be sent automatically, even during quiet hours, such as public safety hazards, tornado warnings, Presidential warnings and evacuation orders.

“We have a commitment to ensure public safety, community awareness and emergency response. To uphold this, when critical information and public service announcements are available, we need to reach our residents as quickly and reliably as possible,” said Duncan.

He added that this system allows the County E911 Call Center to disseminate information across all types of devices in real-time.

Duncan described other improvements made at the E911 Center since he took over operations last year. The first is the implementation of “Emergency Medical Dispatch,” a program for handling medical calls. Trained telecommunicators, using locally approved EMD guidecards to determine the nature and priority of a 911 call, dispatch the appropriate response team, then give the caller instructions to help treat the patient until the responding EMS unit arrives.

“It has been a big change for the existing staff,” Duncan said, but “it has also “been a great thing.” It brings consistency to the responses from dispatchers, and his office confirmed that two lives were saved because of the lifesaving CPR instructions that his dispatchers gave to callers.

Duncan said he understands that many callers to 911 are put off by the questions being asked of them, when all they want is help. He emphasized that “when you call 911, you have someone taking the call and there is a dispatcher sitting nearby who is seeing the information the operator is collecting and typing into the EMD system instantaneously. At the same time, the dispatchers area relaying this information to the appropriate emergency personnel.”

So far in 2016, the E911 Center has processed nearly 62,000 calls, 88 percent for police, eight percent for EMS, three percent for fire and one percent other. Nearly 99 percent of the 911 calls are answered in ten seconds or less and the average dispatch time takes 56 seconds. The busiest days for his staff are Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays and the busiest times are between 4-7 p.m. Except for his two new hires, Duncan said 100 percent of his staff is EMD-certified.

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