County changes emergency alert system

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, June 27, 2018

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Wise County Commissioners Monday approved changing the county’s emergency mass notification system provider from Everbridge to Civic Ready.

Emergency Management Coordinator Cody Powell told commissioners they’d recently audited the Everbridge system.

“One of the things we found is one of the reasons for our low number of people that are signed up in that is we have five jurisdictions that have their own notifications,” Powell said. “People for the most part don’t sign up for two separate ones. As luck would have it, the five plus us, so six, mass notification systems in the county – not one of us uses the same system. So we started looking at the ability to get everyone on the same system.”

Powell said staff demoed multiple systems and found Everbridge to be the most expensive. He recommended Civic Ready (a product of Civic Plus), the most affordable option.

Powell said any cities in Wise could sign on to join Civic Ready at no additional cost to the county. The county could charge cities a low fee to use the system for both city-specific and county-wide alerts.

“Anyone who signs for theirs within the city, now their data is also in the county system,” Powell said. “So if we send out emergency notifications, we’re sending them to quite a bit more people than what we’re doing now.

“It has quite a few additional features as well. It has an app you can download for free. You can sign up for multiple groups, so if someone works in one city and lives in another they can sign up to see alerts from both cities.”

County Judge J.D. Clark discussed possibly passing along some of the cost of the system to cities that signed on to use it. Powell said he’d considered possible costs for the cities that choose to buy in – $1,500 per year for Bridgeport and Decatur, $500 to $700 per year for mid-sized cities and $350 per year for smaller cities.

“The cities that do have it would have substantial cost savings, and they’d actually get more features,” Powell said. “Some of the cities that do have the mass notification system now, they’re actually not able to afford the weather components of that system… And there are some of the smaller jurisdictions that I spoke with that just can’t afford a system, period, because it’s too expensive.”

Powell said the cities would each designate a person to send out alerts. All the dispatchers, Powell, Wise County Fire Marshal Jeff Doughty and Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator Angela Smith would also be able to send out alerts.

“Seems to me like it’s the best way to go,” Sheriff Lane Akin said.

“It saves money for us, and it’s a new opportunity for all the cities that can’t afford their own,” Clark added.

Powell said that Civic Plus’ other products would be included for a bundled rate for the cities that opted into Civic Ready.

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