Earthquakes, avalanches, and widespread power outages are only some of the disasters that can happen in Southeast Alaska.
Wrangell is adopting a new type of emergency alert system, starting in the Fall.
The City and Borough of Wrangell, in cooperation with the hospital, police department, fire department, and other organizations, will now use a new emergency alert system to get the word out in case of emergency.
Katrina Ottesen is the MDS coordinator at Wrangell Medical Center.
“I feel communication is very important, especially in a disaster or emergency setting. The more possible ways you can get important information to help with your safety, your family’s safety and your friends’ safety is the best way to go,” says Ottesen.
The system is called CodeRED and basically, it lets a lot of people know, all at once, about an emergency in their area.
It works like this:
When the police find out about a situation, they push a button that sends a message through the CodeRED system to every email address, land line, and cell phone in its database.
Police Chief Doug McCloskey says that there are a number of possible uses for the system. But there is one disaster people in Southeast are acutely aware of—tsunamis.
“A person should be able to go in there and notify all the low-lying areas that there has been a warning put out and what they need to do to protect themselves,” says McCloskey.
CodeRED works off of a contact database for a community.
Any person with a listed land line phone number will automatically be added to the contact list.
Individuals can choose to give other information like physical address, email address and cell phone number.
That way, if land line service is down, there are other options for contact.
Ottesen says knowing where people live is important.
“You input your physical address. That then pinpoints it on a map.”
That map helps the system pinpoint its emergency notifications for each particular situation.
“So, if there’s a localized disaster or emergency, like there’s a mudslide at the bluffs and the road is closed from a certain point on, they can do a call to the people out the road and let them know about that emergency so they know not to try to come through it,” says Ottesen.
There are other communities in Alaska already using CodeRED, including Petersburg and Sitka.
Lynn Blankenship is the Dispatch Records Supervisor at the Sitka Police Department.
She says CodeRED not only benefits the community, it also helps first responders.
By expediting the community notification process, it allows police to more efficiently coordinate emergency efforts.
“Instead of making several phone calls to let people know what’s going on, we make one. Because usually, there’s only one dispatcher on that has to take care of all this. And if there’s an emergency going on, phones are ringing,” says Blankenship.
Chief McCloskey says CodeRED can also be used to target messages to a specific group of first responders.
So, if a plane crashes at the airport, for example, CodeRED can send a message calling all EMTs and medics to respond. It can include specific information about the nature of the emergency and what kind of response is needed.
“I think this will be invaluable to a community like this, especially where there are people further out of the city,” says Ottesen.
Ottesen says the city is hoping to have CodeRED up and running by Fall, with test calls happening as early as September.
Click here for more information about the system and to sign up. You can also get in touch with Katrina Ottesen at the hospital.