Clarkstown officials began a campaign Thursday for residents to register for the new multifaceted emergency notification system dubbed “Ready Clarkstown.” The Internet based system boasts the capability of being able to reach thousands of residents and businesses within minutes in the event of an emergency. Registration appears on the town’s webpage, click on the red arrows in the“Ready Clarkstown” logo and follow the instructions.
Town Supervisor Alex Gromack said implementation of the system from everbridge, an emergency notification system provider, allows the town to have a more comprehensive means of reaching residents and businesspeople via landline phone, cell phone, text messaging, email, fax pager, PDA and TTDY. There are options for up to 10 pathways of contact. The system will send the message to each communication device until its receipt is acknowledged.
Clarkstown will be able to send alerts about emergencies involving weather, fires, floods and environmental problems. Residents can also sign up to receive community alert information about road closures, police alerts about sex offenders moving into a neighborhood or criminal activities such as burglaries or barricaded subject, bear in the area, boil water alerts or when an evacuation order is lifted.
Police Lieutenant Steven Morgan said, “Landline phones, both residential and commercial are already in the system, which is your traditional reverse 911. But the question always is: are you there? Are you home to pick up the message? The answer is invariably no.”
The town will push for residents to opt in for the service through media outreach and presentations to senior citizens groups and community organizations. Gromack said residents must take the initiative to be part of the public safety program.
“The thing is if we can’t contact you, we can’t alert you,” he said, adding that he hopes tens of thousands of people will sign up within the next few months. Clarkstown has more than 82,000 residents.
Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan said the notification system could be customized to the area of the emergency. The entire town can be advised or a specific area because the system is geographically based. He said it is faster than the reverse 911 system the town has been using with the ability to reach everyone in less than an hour. All the residential and business numbers in the reverse 911 system have been already added.
People can include five different addresses that are of concern to them such as their home, office, children’s schools and other relatives’ locations. It will be available to people living outside Clarkstown such as college students or those with elderly relatives.
Councilmember Shirley Lasker said the new system is the most advanced technology available and can send out what could be life saving alerts.
“What’s terrific about this is there won’t be misinformation,” said Councilmember Frank Borelli. “It will be the facts coming from the town.”
According to Councilman George Hoehmann, “Clarkstown Ready” has applications for people special needs and with hearing or visual disabilities. Morgan said one limitation is Clarkstown currently offers the program in English only although Spanish can be added. The system is also equipped with an employee notification system so police officers and town workers can be specifically contacted.
Officials recommended that everyone in a household should register with their own account so each individual reach emergency notices. The town is paying an annual maintenance of $23,000 for the program. It is in use by the State of Connecticut, American Red Cross and Virginia Tech.
Gromack said the town is looking at other emergency equipment needs after the failure of a generator at the police department during Hurricane Sandy that affected much of the building. Morgan noted the police department’s vital communications room did not lose power.
Gromack said one task force is looking into additional generators for town hall, police department and senior citizen centers and a second committee is evaluating other needs.
“You learn from these occurrences (what) you will need,” said Gromack, noting the town hopes to get reimbursement from FEMA for some purchases.