The county is making wider use of a new mass-notification system that provides customized warnings via phone, cell phone, text message or email about threats and emergencies. When signing up, people can request notifications for up to five locations. For example, someone might request alerts for a home address, work, and addresses of parents, children or friends.
Alerts are specifically triggered by Okanogan County Emergency Manager Maurice Goodall, who will write a warning with information about what actions to take within a certain geographic area. Goodall’s message is converted to a voice statement so that the same information can be communicated by phone.
When people sign up for the Okanogan County Alert System, they prioritize up to 10 methods of notification. The system will cycle back to the top of the list three times to reach the person. People are asked to respond so the system knows the message has been received, which cancels the efforts to reach the person, said Goodall.
Everyone in a household should register separately, since people can be at different places and all need to know where an emergency is, said Goodall. If people do not have a cell phone, a regular phone or e-mail, they can enter contact information for a friend or neighbor — any way they will be able to receive an alert.
The system allows people to select the types of alerts they want to receive (including fire alerts, power outages and traffic), and to provide time frames when they don’t want to be disturbed with less-urgent warnings. For example, many people received notification of a red-flag warning from the National Weather Service at 3 in the morning a few weeks ago, said Goodall.
Warnings about genuine emergencies — such as to evacuate immediately — will come through regardless of the time of day, said Goodall.
The county purchased telephone-directory listings so they have home and business phone numbers, which should be in the system even if people have not signed up. But Goodall urged people to make sure their information is in the system and is up to date, and to customize their warnings.
To opt in to the system, visit okanogandem.org. People who do not have access to a computer or are not comfortable using computers can call Glenda Beauregard at Emergency Management at (509) 422-7206 for assistance.