Emergency system goes liveFor the first time in Stutsman County, residents will be able to receive free emergency notifications directly through their mobile devices, email accounts and/or business lines.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
For the first time in Stutsman County, residents will be able to receive free emergency notifications directly through their mobile devices, email accounts and/or business lines.
Through an agreement with southeastern North Dakota’s Richland County originally made back in June 2011, the two counties will now allow anyone who registers for this free service the opportunity to receive notifications of events such as evacuation notices, bioterrorism alerts, boil water notices and missing child reports.
The counties have been researching mass notification service companies the past few months and ultimately decided to contract with the company CodeRED. The company also has emergency notification centers in other areas of North Dakota including Wahpeton and Valley City.
Stutsman County will pay about $8,600 for the service until Feb. 22 and then $13,000 per year annually.
“It’s something we’ve been working really hard on for the past year, so we’re hopeful it will provide a great service for the people in our county,” said Todd Volk, 911 coordinator and assistant emergency manager for Stutsman County.
Prior to the CodeRED system taking effect, only residential landline phones in Stutsman County received emergency notifications from the county. Volk said that changes with this system.
“If an event happens somewhere in our county that we want people to know about, we’ll be able to use this system to identify where it’s taking place, and then send out a voice recording and a text message to those who have registered,” Volk said.
The county hasn’t seen any events during the last several months that would have called for using this system, but it’s always good to have just in case, according to Stutsman County Emergency Manager Jerry Bergquist.
“We wouldn’t have needed it lately, but with something like the floods of last summer it probably we would have been very useful,” Bergquist said. “But it’s very comforting knowing that we have a system like this in place that we can use.”
In addition to emergency notifications, the service will also allow registered users to receive weather warnings directly from the National Weather Service, including tornadoes, severe weather and flash floods.
“That’s a huge plus, too. Rather than waiting to hear it from radio or TV, people can get these warnings immediately because it’s direct from the National Weather Service through the CodeRED system,” Volk said.
This kind of system is something trending statewide, according to Cecily Fong, public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.
“We’re seeing it more and more around the state. I’d say about 20 counties have the phone service notification system — most of whom have the text message component also,” Fong said. “Having that text message capability is really a great thing.”
Transition to cellphones
Bergquist said that the number of cellphone lines in North Dakota surpassed the amount of landlines in the state about three or four years ago, so this kind of a service is rather timely.
“Cellphones are becoming more and more like people’s center of the universe, especially with smart phones. So I think, in general, the public will really benefit from this,” he said.
Anyone can register for the service by logging onto the Stutsman County website at www.stutsmancounty.org and clicking on the “CodeRED Community Notification Enrollment” link.
Required information to register includes first and last name, street address, city, state, zip code and phone numbers people wish to register with the service.
Volk and Bergquist said the county does not have access to the information submitted, and it will be privately stored in a database through CodeRED.
“People don’t have to worry about privacy with this. None of their personal information is getting out,” Bergquist said.
Only users who are registered will receive notifications. Prior to the Stutsman County Emergency Management office notifying the public of this service Monday morning, Volk said about 20 users had already signed up for the service through the website.
Normal text messaging rates apply to users who decide to opt in for the text messaging service.
Testing the system
A test of the CodeRED system will be initiated for all of Stutsman County on Thursday afternoon.
“Not often would we do an all-county call like this, but this initiation should do two things — make people aware the service is working, and test exactly how fast the phone exchange is working also,” Bergquist said.
If users were to leave the Stutsman County area, Volk said the system would still allow them to receive notifications.
“It’s based on the exact address you enter for that phone line when you register, not based on the GPS of where your phone is at that given time,” he said.
In addition, the email alert system is designed such that, if a missing child alert were to go out, an image of that child would be sent as an attachment along with the email itself — something Volk said could extend to messages sent directly to smart phones in the future when those system capabilities are available.
Any questions regarding the system can be directed to the Stutsman County Emergency Management office at 701-252-9093.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at
701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com