CADILLAC — Out with the old and in with the new. That is the credo of Wexford County’s new alert system.
In the past and before Wexford County Emergency Management Director Travis Baker took over the county department, Wexford County used the alert service Nixle to send emergency messages to people within the county. Before he took over the position of director, however, the service was discontinued.
“When I took over in January 2019, we didn’t have (Nixle). It was expired,‘ he said. “What I think happened is when (former Wexford EMS director) Sarah (Benson) left in August 2018 that is right around the same time (Nixle) sent the notice about paying for the service. It was never brought to the board’s attention. I think it got overlooked in the transition.‘
So when Baker started a little over a year ago, he said he knew the county didn’t have an alert system anymore. He also knew the tornado sirens the county had used were outdated and extremely expensive to update.
He found out quickly there are a lot of service providers and started attending webinars and having online meetings with various companies. That is when he found the provider the county is now using — CodeRED.
CodeRED is a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service solution. It allows public safety officials to deliver geo-targeted, time-sensitive information via phone, email, text, Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, and more.
“A lot of surrounding counties use it including Grand Traverse, Manistee, and Benzie. If I have questions, I knew I could always call one of them,‘ he said.
Baker said the new system allows him to link with the National Weather Service and when there are weather alerts in the county it will automatically push them to anyone who has signed up for the service. He also said it allows him to pinpoint where an alert can be directed and which residents should get it.
That means if there is an event like the 2018 Bond Mill Pond Fire in Haring Township, Baker said if it had been closer to a subdivision that needed to be evacuated, the alert could be sent to those residents rather than to every person signed up for the service.
“It is not going to alert someone in Buckley that doesn’t need to know but I can do the whole county if I need to,‘ he said. “I could do it by a block, a street, a neighborhood, or the entire county.‘
With the new alert system purchase, Baker said he now wants to get county residents signed up. To sign up for CodeRED, Baker said a person simply needs to text Wexford to 99411. A link will be texted back to them and they need to click on it. They will be taken to a website.
Once there, they can either sign up as a managed account where they can link CodeRED to an existing account such as Google or Facebook or they can register as a guest. He said while most people have cell phones and access to text, residents can sign up for the service and get alerts via a landline.
Eventually, he also hopes to have the link to set up CodeRED on the county’s website.