Everbridge Ensures ‘Proactive’ Communication Between Emergency Services and Residents | News

METROPOLIS, Ill. – When the power went out in parts of Metropolis around 11 p.m. on Sunday, March 13, Micah Tolbert knew what was going to happen. He’s seen it too many times.

County emergency services offices were bombarded with calls as residents wanted the answer to the same three questions: Is the power out? Why is the power cut off? When will he be back?

Meanwhile, as the staff answered these questions, their switchboards lit up. And one of those calls could have been a life-threatening emergency.

Tolbert, the city’s fire chief and director of emergency management, had the opportunity that night to officially launch a new notification system as Everbridge made its debut in Massac County.

Everbridge is a mass community notification system to help public authorities “better communicate with the public in the event of an emergency incident. If we feel there is something going on in the community that the public needs to know about quickly, we can alert them through this system,” Tolbert said.

Metropolis Ward 4 Alderman Chad Lewis first floated the idea of ​​a notification system shortly after he was first elected in 2017.

“I quickly noticed a communication barrier between the city and its citizens. I knew there was a simple and affordable solution,” he said.

“I had become familiar with a simple texting app over the years that was used to communicate directly with a specific audience. A message could be immediately sent directly from your phone. Communication was prompt, informative and everyone who signed up received it. After presenting this to the board, I was approached by Keith Davis regarding the Everbridge system.

At the time, Davis was the city’s director of emergency management, and “we were looking for a notification system to replace the one that 911 had purchased. I told (Lewis) 911 was looking at Everbridge. He took a look at it, they made a demo for it, he liked it and brought it to the city council.

The council approved, bought the system, and “for some reason it was never completed,” said Don Canada, who was a Ward 2 councilor at the time.

So when Canada was elected mayor in 2021, adopting the Everbridge program was one of the things it wanted to do. He asked Tolbert to take him back.

“We’re hoping that when this is up and running, the manager can put out a message, so people don’t have to call (emergency services),” Canada said. “We want to be proactive in providing them with the information.”

Everbridge is a subscription service that can be subscribed for free through the company’s website or by downloading the mobile app. To create an account, subscribers provide their name, username and password, location information and contact details.

However, Tolbert recommends users download the mobile app. After downloading, the system will ask for an organization – the keyword is Metropolis or Massac and the correct organization is Metropolis Massac Notify Now. “Make sure you click ‘allow’ for notifications, fill out the registration, hit accept and you’re done,” he said. Tolbert said he checks for new subscribers almost daily to send them a test to make sure they signed up correctly.

Subscribers can enter three contact forms to receive the notification via phone call, email or SMS.

“The way the system is set up, you can prioritize how you want to be notified – phone call first, text second, email third,” Tolbert explained. “The phone call will indicate the number of the fire station. If you don’t respond or click confirm in about three minutes, the next notification will be triggered. If you do not confirm at all, we will receive a message that it has been delivered but not confirmed. We can resend the same message to people who have not confirmed.

Tolbert pointed out that notifications can also include messages with the alert, such as instructions on how to proceed with a boil water order.

Subscribers can also register multiple addresses to receive notifications. “If they have a relative or loved one who doesn’t have access to a computer or cell phone or who lives somewhere else, they can sign up at that address to receive a notification and pass the information on to them,” said said Tolbert.

The system also has the ability to pinpoint specific locations and customize messages based on a residence. It’s something that sets the system apart, noted Davis, who now serves as the city’s part-time assistant director of emergency management. However, Tolbert noted, this feature is only available through the app, which is different from the usual notification.

“With the mobile app, if there is an event or incident that is in a particular area and only affects that area, we can trigger an alert for that area,” Tolbert said. “If you live outside of this location, you will not receive the alert. But if you have the mobile app and you enter that location based on your phone’s location data, an alert will be triggered. It could be a gas leak, a chemical spill, a fire, a boil water order, a power outage. If you are away or your home is registered there, you will receive the alert. »

Additionally, those who have the app and are in the area of ​​a notification can submit a photo. Tolbert used the example of a wreck. If the alert message asks for a photo, subscribers can take them and they are sent directly to the system.

Tolbert will also work with the Massac County Sheriff’s Department and the Massac County Emergency Management Agency to deliver their important messages to residents.

“The system will greatly benefit all of Massac County,” Sheriff Chad Kaylor said. “We can get the word out to more people quickly, if we need to. It will definitely come in handy in the event of a disaster or chemical spill.

Now all you have to do is register. Tolbert pointed out that anyone living in Massac County can subscribe.

“When the power went out (March 13) I didn’t have a good idea of ​​the affected areas in the city, so I was able to go in and draw a circle around most of the city, type in the message and hit send,” he said. “When I did that, it told me 71 followers were in the area at the time – 37 confirmed (notification received), nine are arrived late and 25 did not confirm receipt It was delivered to every registered user in this captured location About half confirmed – not what I would like but it was sent to people .

As of Monday, there were 196 Everbridge subscribers in the county.

“It’s a good program and it will work for people if they sign up,” Canada said.

Tolbert responded to Facebook’s comments about data and location tracking. “We do not track locations, messages, phone calls or anything of that nature. It’s extremely private and secure,” he said.

Additionally, “we will not bombard you with junk or spam. If it’s an incident that we feel the public really needs to know about, we’ll send it,” he said.

“Everyone is constantly bombarded with so much information today, it can get hard to keep up,” Lewis said.

“Knowing that the City of Metropolis has the best interests of its citizens and this powerful communication tool will help us reach more sectors of our community, especially during a critical event. I strongly encourage everyone in the city of Metropolis and surrounding areas to stay informed by signing up.

Questions regarding Everbridge and the subscription can be directed to Tolbert via email at [email protected] Registration information is also available on the fire department’s Facebook page.

“I encourage people to sign up and sign up,” Tolbert said.

“It can alleviate – and hopefully eliminate – some of the burden on fire, police and sheriff dispatchers of receiving phone calls during incidents like a power outage. They already answer tons of phone calls and handle emergencies that may arise, ambulance calls, work on an incident – the last thing they have to do is answer phone calls in the event of a power outage .

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