FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A new emergency alert system will be up and running in Allen County in about a month. The Consolidated Communications Partnership of Fort Wayne and Allen County (CCP) board approved it at its meeting Tuesday afternoon.
“We are in control of it. Anything we want to put out for the community, for Allen County, we can do it,” Randy Raypole, the new director of the CCP, said.
SwiftReach is the company that will run the system for almost $35,000 a year. That money was already available in the CCP budget.
“It was a no-brainer,” Nelson Peters, an Allen County Commissioner and a CCP board member, said. “It’s tremendous because it allows for so many things. It allows for alerts to concertgoers in a particular venue to active shooter situations to Amber or Silver alert situations.”
People will be able to download an app to their phone to sign up for the alerts, but, the system can also send notifications to all phones in a specified area. That could be useful at a concert, for example, if authorities need to alert everyone in the venue to an emergency. Or in an abducted child situation, someone just driving through the county would still get the alert.
“With that geocode, we can push that out and hit everybody whether you’ve chosen to subscribe or not. We can get that message out to you,” Raypole said. “We can target the area, go in with the mapping and circle a certain area of town, like where an auto accident happened, we can notify everybody in that area of town and we don’t have to bother the other areas that it doesn’t affect.”
The system would be used for all kinds emergency alerts like severe weather, school lockdowns and traffic hazards, but it could also help get the word out to the public about an abducted child more quickly than the Amber Alert process.
“It allows us to move much more quickly than we would if we had to go through some of the hoops that are required by federal and state governments to issue an Amber or Silver alert,” Peters said. “It’s too bad we didn’t have it all in place a few weeks ago.”
While the process of looking for a new alert system was already started before the Amber Alert in September, the tragedy prompted officials to move quickly to get it approved and installed.
Ana Hernandez, the paternal grandmother of the children abducted and killed in September came to the board meeting to thank them for the system and offered to raise money to help pay for it. The system is already funded in the CCP budget, but any money the family and community raises will be used to help publicize the new alert system.
“They want to help. They want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We don’t want it to happen again and we’ll do anything we can do,” Raypole said.
The system will not only send a push alert or text message, it can also send messages to social media accounts if people sign up for it. Raypole expects people to be able to start signing up in a few weeks with the system operational by mid-November.
“It will handle everyone in the county. We want everyone to sign up,” Raypole said.
NewsChannel 15 will give instructions on how and where to sign up when it’s available.