During a disaster, seconds count when first responders are trying to provide emergency messages to a community. The one tool they have to communicate with the entire community at once is Story County’s mass notification system called Story County Iowa Alerts. There is one catch though — while home phones numbers were loaded into the system, individuals must to register their cell phones at http://www.storycountyiowa.gov/alert to get emergency alerts on these devices. Keith Morgan, Story County Emergency Management Coordinator, put it this way, “Imagine how long it would take first responders to go door to door to tell residents to evacuate if there was a potential hazardous materials issue affecting their neighborhood. It’s likely they would not have enough time. Now think how much faster the evacuation would be if they could type a message into a computer or tablet and send it to the home phone, cell phones, and email accounts for residents in the evacuation zone. Story County Iowa Alerts gives first responders this ability to communicate if residents take the time to sign-up for it.”

Story County Iowa Alerts is very customizable and users get to determine how they receive emergency alerts by selecting which devices they register and whether that device receives a voice message, text or email. Users can also choose to receive alerts for multiple cities so they can be aware of emergencies in towns where their children go to school or where they may have loved ones. There is even the ability for citizens to self-identify as having special needs to assist first responders as they conduct operations. When a notification is sent, the phone number that will appear will be 515-382-7253 and the text message number will be 69310. We hope users add these numbers to their contacts with a name like ‘Emergency Message.’ That way the phone will indicate the incoming call or text is an important emergency message and not a telemarketer.

Responders can also develop very targeted messages that are delivered to specific address areas as small as one block. They have another option to send the message to individuals that have indicated they want emergency information for a particular community. One thing Story County Iowa Alerts does not do is provide severe weather alerts — we hope that you will subscribe to severe weather apps offered by local media that do that task better.

Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, Melissa Spencer added, “Story County residents are an important partner in emergency response planning for their communities and in the unincorporated areas of the county. Story County Iowa Alerts can keep the public informed on how they protect themselves or what they need to do to help first responders execute their duties during a disaster. Please do your part and sign up for Story County Iowa Alerts.”

If you have questions about Story County Iowa Alerts or difficulties signing-up, contact Story County Emergency Management at 515-382-7315.