County launches alerts program
Yamhill County has initiated a new program designed to let people know when trouble is brewing and informing people on what to do when trouble has struck. The emergency notification system, known as Yamhill County Alerts, was launched Dec. 15 and works like this: residents anywhere in the county opt-in via the Internet-based system for alerts and select a notification system from texts, emails, automated phone calls to both land lines and cell phones, and through the Everbridge Mobile Safety app when there is an emergency.
The system is designed, according to Yamhill County Emergency Management director Brian Young, to notify county residents of emergencies such as severe weather warnings, flooding, wildland fires near homes or neighborhoods, evacuations, shelter in place warnings and hazardous materials incidents.
"We all hope there is no need to use it, but in the event we do, we want notifications to be effective," he said.
Alerts can be countywide or scaled down to smaller geographical areas and there is no limit to the number of people who can access the system. Young explained that the county system is in addition to ones already in place in communities, such as Newberg's Red Alert program.
"This system applies to everyone in the county, including Newberg residents," he said. "They are independent systems, so there is no overlap or the sharing of information between the two."
The county accessed a database of landline phone numbers that have been added to the system, Young said, but added "With that, we still encourage those with landline numbers to opt-in, since they would be in control of the accuracy of information."
He further explained that the county is also encouraging residents to opt-in for technological reasons. "Yamhill County has a little less than 37,000 residences and of that around 16,000 landlines," he said. "With advancements in technology, I anticipate the number of landline phones will continue to decline. There is currently no way we can gather email information without being supplied by the user."
While Young said no specific emergency prompted creation of the system, he added that the program enjoyed a favorable response from the Board of Commissioners, the body responsible for funding it.
"There has been great support from the commissioners," he said, adding that funding approval came before he took over the position in January. "When I took over as emergency manager, it was time to work toward getting the system implemented. It has been five months since the purchase of the system and a lot of behind-the-scenes moving parts to coordinate, but we are glad we are to a point to be able to release this to the public."
To sign up, visit http://bit.ly/2Bf0OcA and create a profile, which automatically signs up residents for emergency notifications. They then can opt into specific municipalities for notifications that are not time sensitive or life threatening as well. Residents can enter up to five addresses to receive notifications, including home, work, school or daycare.
"We encourage everyone to sign up, to include all members of a single household," Young said. "This way notifications can reach all residents."