The remnants of a hurricane are predicted to arrive in 36 hours and could bring heavy flooding. An accidental release of harmful chemicals could endanger the residents of a given area. In circumstances such as these, getting information about the danger as soon as possible could mean the difference between safety and serious injury or even life and death.
Catawba County has available a system that allows citizens to receive information about such threats by phone or through the internet. In an era when more people than ever have only a cell phone, County officials are encouraging cell phone users to be sure they’re signed up for the Community Alert System.
People who live, work or attend school in Catawba County can receive emergency alerts by text, voice or email on their cell phones through the system.
“Catawba County Emergency Management uses a combination of telephone, computer and Geographic Information System technologies that sends recorded emergency information or warnings to landline telephone numbers in designated geographic areas, and by SMS text and/or e-mail,” said Jim Dickerson, Catawba County Community Alert System Specialist. “The Community Alert System can send official emergency information by text, voice or email to cell phone and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones once people register the number for their phone.”
U.S. households with no land line service, but at least one wireless telephone, jumped to 35.8% by June 2012, as compared with 34% at the end of 2011 and only 10.5% five years earlier, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. By 2016, the number of wireless-only households could climb to 50.8 million, or 42.8% of all U.S. residents with telephone service, according to technology researcher IDC.
"More and more people are abandoning their landlines,” Dickerson said. “This is giving us access to more phone numbers and we could send out messages to a larger number of people in the county when an emergency is happening, but only if they take the step of registering for the Community Alert System."
Anyone who lives, works or attends school in the county may register their cell phone or VoIP phone number on the secure, self-registration computer portal at www.catawbacountync.gov/alert.
“Catawba County has a large variety of potential emergencies and hazards such as chemical spills, floods and incidents at McGuire Nuclear Station or Marshall Steam Station," Dickerson added. “The Community Alert System has been used for those types of incidents, evacuations, hazard warnings and crimes that affect a neighborhood. It can also be used in searches for missing children or adults at risk, shelter in place advisories and public health information.”
The Community Alert System is designed to augment other sources of information about emergencies including radio, television and the Internet. The upgraded system also includes TTY/TDD messaging for the deaf.
For more information on the Community Alert System, visit www.catawbacountync.gov/alert or call 828-465-8230.