Residents want and need to be informed quickly in the event of an emergency, for their own safety.
Fortunately, Columbus and Bartholomew County have a tool that can rapidly reach thousands of residents by phone, text message or email. The emergency notification system is called Everbridge.
It’s been used, for example, when severe weather is expected so residents can prepare and take shelter, if needed. Most recently Everbridge’s value was highlighted when a citywide advisory to boil water was issued.
Everbridge was activated about 8 p.m. June 16 and transmitted alerts to roughly 6,000 residents. That’s a quick and efficient manner for notification — and it’s not limited to residents of Bartholomew County.
Mid-sized Indiana communities such as Bloomington and Valparaiso routinely use automated alert systems to quickly notify a large audience of affected individuals for boil-water advisories or other urgent matters which require quick notification.
Unfortunately, Everbridge in Columbus was activated nearly four hours after the media was first notified and postings about the order were placed on social media. That lag left thousands of residents uninformed for hours.
The local boil advisory in Columbus made two things apparent:
- Everbridge, when activated, is a valuable emergency notification tool, and efforts to encourage more residents to sign up for the notification system need to continue.
- Delays in notifications, such as the boil advisory, cannot happen, and protocols must be thoroughly reviewed so that activation of Everbridge is seamless when it is deemed necessary to use.
Columbus City Utilities hadn’t had a contaminated well in three decades, so using Everbridge may not have been top of mind for local officials. However, the incident provides an opportunity to step back, re-examine the process and make changes to ensure that valuable and urgent information is disseminated in a timely manner.
To sign up for Everbridge, the Columbus/Bartholomew County alert system, visit one of two signup locations online:
- City of Columbus website at columbus.in.gov and click on “sign up for emergency alerts” under the quick links panel.
- Bartholomew County website at bartholomew.in.gov and click on “citizen alerts.”
Users may choose to be notified on their home phone, cell, business phone, email, text messages and more.
Individuals with disabilities who need assistance can register by calling 812-379-1500 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.