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In Holly Springs, 911 just might call you instead.
In the coming weeks, the town will become one of five in Wake County with access to a “reverse 911” system. Through the Wake County-run program, town officials will be able to call and send notifications to cellular phones and landlines in parts of town.
“It could be just for emergency messages – a tractor trailer of … bad stuff has turned over in your backyard – all the way down to public service announcements: there’s a half marathon, Main Street’s closed,” said Josh Creighton, emergency management director for Wake County.
Register for emergency notifications at http://bit.ly/emergencyregister.
The county itself can already use the Geocast system to send alerts in Holly Springs. But with a new agreement approved last week, town officials will be able to patch in themselves and send their own voice messages.
“This is going to give us the ability to notify and to pinpoint certain areas,” said Police Chief John Herring.
The system could be used in searches for missing children, or to issue boil-water advisories, or any number of town issues.
However, the system, which the county provides free-of-charge to the town, has its limits. Cellular phones and Internet-based phones will only receive notifications if they’re registered for free at the county website.
The system also can be slow to respond to fast-moving emergencies, such as tornadoes.
“By the time we log in and activate it, the tornadoes pass,” Creighton said. In those situations, the county relies on the National Weather Service’s radio and television announcements. The Geocast system might be more useful in the aftermath of such a disaster instead.
So far, only five Wake County towns have direct access to a reverse 911 system, though the county has offered the service since the Apex EQ chemical fire of 2006. (The county switched service providers last year.) Cary, Garner, Raleigh and Holly Springs use the county system, while Apex operates its own.
Some municipalities may not be aware of the county solution, Creighton said. Holly Springs had considered signing on to a similar system for up to five years prior to now, Herring said, but hadn’t settled on a preferred product.
A new federal product also will complement the county’s tools in the near future. The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, Creighton said, will be able to “ping” all cellular phones in range of a selected tower, rather than only the numbers listed by the county.