Routt County tests new network

Emergency preparedness system will send message

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— More than 300 telephones in Steamboat Springs will ring simultaneously today.

Routt County is testing its new emergency preparedness network at 1:30 p.m. The automated system will send a pre-recorded message to 311 people who live on the south side of town.

The message should not cause recipients any alarm, County Emergency Manager Chuck Vale said.

"This is only a test," he said.

Future messages from the network will warn of real emergencies.

The network, commonly known as the Reverse 911 System, immediately notifies people of pending disasters in their vicinity. The message tells people what to do about flooding, fires, hazardous waste spills and other emergencies.

Today's test will target an area that stretches from the intersection of Pine Grove Road and U.S. Highway 40 to the intersection of Pine Grove Road and Mount Werner Road to the intersection of Mount Werner Road and U.S. 40.

Those who are not home at the time of the call will find a message on their voice mail, Vale said.

He stressed that people should not call 911 if they receive the pre-recorded message.

The first trial run of the county's emergency preparedness network represents about two and a half years of research and planning.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners approved the system last August.

Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Grand counties are sharing the cost of bringing Reverse 911 to the region.

Pooling resources was a much cheaper alternative to each county separately implementing the program, Vale said.

Routt County must pay about $3,000 in startup fees, as well as $11,466 annually for the next five years to maintain the service.

The county's share is funded by 911 surcharge fees.

The system includes a database that holds every phone number in the county, so public safety officials can reach a collective group of residents within minutes with the same message about an emergency.

Instantaneous notification eliminates the need for law enforcement to notify residents individually.

Public safety officials can send the message from any telephone or computer with Web access.

Counties in Colorado used the system more than 300 times last summer to alert people about the Hayman fire, Vale said.

The service would have been a valuable asset when the Hinman first flared up in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness in July. Officials could have notified nearby residents about pending evacuation through one instantaneous phone call rather than going door to door.

Wildfire comes to mind as a likely emergency, Vale said, but the automated system can efficiently deliver warning about countless emergencies.

"It's got a lot of good uses," Vale said.

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