Henning initiates emergency alert systemPublished 11:12am Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Residents in the city of Henning and the surrounding rural area can rest a little easier knowing they will be kept safe with a new emergency alert system.
Following the encouragement of the county, the city has installed a new emergency notification system that sends out alerts through text message, phone, email and fax to registered residents. In case of any number of emergencies, including weather, missing children and utility shutdowns, residents will have up-to-date information to help them best manage any situation.
The new technology is being used to expand current warning systems, like sirens, that don’t reach some residents located in rural areas, according to Jessica Strege, utility billing and deputy clerk with the city.
“The sirens are not always heard indoors, so it’s an additional way to keep people safe,” Strege said. “We’re looking forward to seeing how it works. This is just another way to serve the public.”
The program is still relatively new in Otter Tail County. Only a few communities have or are setting up the system.
In Henning, the city has over 50 residents signed up in their emergency contact database. The city has run a few advertisements for registration and held a sign-up last Friday. As the system grows and is used more, the number of people using the system is expected to grow.
“At this point, we’re really looking for people to get the word out,” Estrege said. “I kind of expect that the first time we send out a call for weather people will be talking about getting it.”
Those interested in the notifications can sign up any number of devices to receive warnings. Once the number or address is in the database, administrators from the city send out automated voice and text messages. The city can also pinpoint certain areas if something like a utility shutdown is only going to affect parts of town. The technology, Estrege said, makes getting information to the public easier, all at a very nominal cost to the city.
“It’s pretty neat because we can draw it up on our phones and send it out from there,” Estrege said. “We can draw a map, go into the map and pinpoint those people so not everyone is contacted. It takes out the time of calling people.”
While time will tell how effective the system will be, Estrege said she expects the notifications to work well for most residents. The city is also encouraging the area townships to adopt the system to expand coverage.
“I think the weather portion is what people are most excited about,” Estrege said. “Hopefully we won’t have to use it too often.”