By LIZ BUTTON
The Rye City Police Department implemented the new CodeRED emergency notification system on the first of the year as a more cost-effective and efficient replacement for the city’s current Reverse 911 phone alert system.
While both systems send out time-sensitive, personalized and geographically targeted messages with critical community alerts like weather emergency notifications, evacuation notices, bio-terrorism warnings, boil water notices and missing child reports, the CodeRED system also employs email and text messaging systems in addition to phone calls.
And, while it used to take an hour to get notifications out to the entire city, it will now take police only minutes to reach everyone on the call list, according to department officials.
Such speedy notification services have become more important in recent years, with increased use of social media and digital communication during severe weather emergencies like Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Coordinating communication has been identified as an important step in improving the city’s emergency response protocol; the city started looking into more efficient emergency alert systems after Irene, according to City Manager Scott Pickup.
Rye Police Sgt. Nick Groglio, head of the department’s staff services and IT division, said when the department was looking to outsource their alert services to a hosted system rather than continue to manage in-house, he helped spearhead the effort to research, select and implement the CodeRED program.
In the end, the police department contracted with Florida-based company Emergency Communications Network to license the CodeRED email and text notifications system for a cost of $12,000.
The department’s civilian accountant, Tom Scappaticci, said this price tag includes ECN’s “My Daily Call” component for an added $610, which replaces the department’s Guardian Calling program—a version of which has been in place since the 1990s—that checks up on seniors and the housebound.
“My Daily Call” provides telephone calls, up to twice daily, as a friendly contact to the elderly who live alone or to anyone else who may benefit from a daily reassurance call.
The City of Rye was the first community in the area to adopt the Reverse911 System for telephone notifications in 2003, according to the department, and went on to add the Nixle public safety email and text alert system in 2010. Before Hurricane Sandy, Nixle had 700-800 users, Pickup said. Now the number is at least 1,000.
CodeRED consolidates the Nixle and Reverse 911 services into one platform, Groglio said. The city will continue to use the voluntary Nixle system to deliver email and text notifications for the immediate future, but all residents and business owners currently registered for Nixle messages should also register for CodeRED in anticipation of a transition to the new system over the coming weeks.
“Rather than having to do twice the work, we have the capability to do both in one,” Groglio said.
The transition will go into effect as residents continue to register for the system and police staff training is completed, according to officials.
The new CodeRED system also provides faster notification capacity and other enhanced features in a more cost-effective manner. While, before, the station had only a certain number of paid lines and police dialed out from there, the outsourced ECN system has thousands of phone lines at hand, according to Scappaticci.
Residents can sign up for the system, which became operational on Jan. 1, using the city website, ryeny.gov, by inputting their name, address, all applicable phone numbers and, optionally, an email address, or by calling the City of Rye Police Records Division to input their information via phone.
Since the system allows geographically-based delivery for targeted messages, street addresses are needed to ensure the correct users get the right calls, even if the person is using a cell phone number, police said.
Those individuals with unlisted phone numbers, who have changed their number in the last year or have a cell phone as their primary phone number should assume they may not be in the database and make sure to register themselves.
In a Jan. 15 statement made before he left his position the following day, former Police Commissioner William Connors said CodeRED is a particularly convenient system because individuals and businesses can add their own phone numbers directly to the database. Listed phone numbers are already in the database, he said.
The city is also offering a new free app for smart devices, called “Info On Rye,” available in the Apple and Android app stores. Rye TV director Nicole Levitsky designed the app—which offers Con Ed outages, weather, flood charts, tides and Nixle messages—so that it is integrated with the CodeRED system.