Mecklenburg County is rolling out a new Emergency Notification System this month, and the system is much more advanced than the one it replaces.
It’s called CharMeck Alerts, and it lets people receive emergency alerts through land lines, cell phones, text messages, email, and social media. The previous system only worked with land line phones. People can sign up for alerts targeted for as many as five different addresses in the county. Charlotte Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Dulin says this allows people to keep up with homes, offices, schools, even specific stretches of highway.
“The example we’re using is this," he says. "I live in Cornelius; I drop my kids off at daycare in University City; I work in downtown Charlotte. All three of those locations are important to me, right? So I want to know if anything happens in any of those locations.”
The new alert system is also faster. The old system could only make 100 calls every 30 seconds. CharMeck alerts, Dulin says, can generate a thousand times more alerts in a fraction of the time.
“We literally, right now can send out 100,000 messages every five seconds. That’s how fast it is."
And when people get those messages, they can send information back to authorities using a smart phone app. The system also maintains a registry of disabled people. Dulin says this will allow emergency responders to more quickly find and help people with special needs.
The system is hosted by a company called Everbridge, which provides similar services for several other cities including Boston , Atlanta, and New Orleans. The the city of Charlotte is paying $243,000 of grant money each year for three years. The six towns in the county will be able to use the system free of charge.
Dulin says the county hopes to enroll at least 500,000 people by the end of the month. They’re planning to get the word out through several PSA’s, inserts in utility bills, and stories like this one.
You can sign up for CharMeck Alerts here.