An emergency notification system that would alert Columbus and Bartholomew County residents of impending disasters via texts, emails, landline phones and cellphones has been approved by the city and county.
The Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety approved Tuesday an interlocal agreement that pays $20,650 to Everbridge, an incident notification systems company, to provide the service.
Columbus will pay 59 percent of the cost, $12,184, with Bartholomew County paying the remainder.
The payment split is based on population proportions between the city and county. The Bartholomew County Commissioners approved the agreement Monday.
Tornado warnings, floods, neighborhood evacuations and other emergency notifications will be sent to local residents based on their preferences about how they want to be contacted.
The system can send out information in up to 13 languages, which is helpful in Columbus’ growing and diverse population.
The goal is to have the system in operation this year.
Residents’ information from phone directories that is already in the 911 database will be uploaded into the new system.
Residents will be able to sign up for the service and provide additional contact information.
A website and public signup locations have been discussed as ways to get people to sign up.
Each user can add up to five addresses or phone numbers to their account to receive notifications.
Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown said it’s important that people subscribe to the system because of the limited information in the 911 system.
Many people have dropped landlines and just use cellphones, for example, and those numbers are not in phone books.
“I think people would need at least numbers to get texts and voice mails,” Brown said.
The system requires a confirmation of receipt of message, said Jeff Logston, Columbus’ director of operations and finance.
If a message to the primary method of contact generates no response, then the notification system could try again or move on to the next contact preference.
Residents will not be charged to sign up or receive notification.
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