Rave alert, Smart911 sign-ups improving after slow July

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017

After a slow start in July, more residents are signing up for Rave alerts and Smart911, according to Pike County EMA director Jeanna Barnes.

Barnes presented the latest update on the mass notification system to the Pike County Commission at Monday’s meeting.

“In the first two weeks we’ve had 128 new accounts,” Barnes said. “For comparison, we had 72 sign-ups in the whole month of July.”

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Barnes reported 473 accounts have been created so far, but she noted that doesn’t necessarily mean only 473 people are using the service.

“These are actually households,” Barnes said. “So if we look at Census numbers for average people per household (2.5), we are actually reaching up to 1,200 people.”

One of the biggest sign-up drivers was emergency flooding on August 11. “Most of our sign-ups were that day,” Barnes said.

Barnes is taking advantage of the social media platform to urge residents to sign up for alerts. Barnes is also working with local schools to get the word out through the education system.

“I met with Dr. Mark Bazzell (superintendent of Pike County Schools) and he is 100 percent on board with getting info into schools and helping us get with principals and teachers,” Barnes said. “I also met with Dr. Lee Hicks (superintendent of Troy City Schools) and he still has to meet with his administrators, but feels it won’t be any problem to do the same.”

Barnes is also meeting with Becky Baggett, principal at Pike Liberal Arts School.

Barnes and Pike County 911 Director Chris Dozier have been opening satellite offices to help people sign up for the system.

Barnes said one lesson from doing that is that it can take 20 to 30 minutes to help someone set up an account.

To help get more people signed up quickly, Barnes will be heading to Troy University to find volunteers.

“We’ll be going to volunteer fair day at Troy to get volunteers that can help with sign-up fairs,” Barnes said. “The extra people will really help.”

Commissioners told Barnes they wanted to make the alerts portion of the system to become more available to residents with a simple click without having to navigate through some of the other Smart911 pages.

Barnes wants to make sure residents understand that Smart911 is a great service for residents to securely share pertinent information with law enforcement officials, but those uncomfortable or unwilling to share that information can sign up for alerts with only the most basic information.

“It’s all optional, of course,” Barnes said. “To sign up for notifications, all you need to enter is your name, address and phone number and then you can opt in to different emergency alerts,” Barnes said.

Dozier said the two agencies are working together to get people signed up for alerts and then explain the benefits of putting information online for law enforcement to retrieve in an emergency.

“The biggest thing right now is we’re still pushing sign up, sign up, sign up,” Dozier said. “We’re coming up with a plan to push people to sign up and get the alerts.”

Although basic information is all that’s required, Dozier encourages residents to go back and fill in more of the emergency information as soon as they can.

“The more information the better,” Dozier said. “You never know when we might need something.”

For example, Dozier said the agencies want to push child safety with school back in session to let parents know how the system can help law enforcement in an emergency.

“In the event something happens, emergency responders already have that information instead of the parents having to go and find them a picture and other information,” Dozier said.

Barnes asked for  $6,000 for advertising in her agency’s upcoming budget to push the system. Pike County 911 may also meet the agency halfway to fund the advertising.

To sign up for Smart911 and Rave alerts, click the sign-up button on the Pike County EMA or Pike County 911 Facebook pages or go to www.smart911.com or www.pikecounty911.com.