After confusion, city will try new resident-alert system again

Last week, the Grand Junction Police Department’s first attempt to use the new, automated Regional Communications System to alert residents didn’t go so well.

This morning, the city will try it again.

The system was purchased last year for $115,990 from Everbridge along with a yearly service contract for $81,990. It contacted 50,000 residents by phone and e-mail about Xcel Energy flying a helicopter at low levels for inspection of high-pressure gas lines.

But more than 400 residents called 911 and Xcel confused and concerned about the message.

Public safety officials will try to do a better job of categorizing messages as emergencies or informational, said Paula Creasy, manager of the communications center.

The call recipients are people who registered with the Police Department to automatically receive emergency notifications and public safety messages.

During the first tryout, the system notified residents of an “emergency” and were then told to push No. 1 on their phone’s keypad to learn more.

Many residents were disconnected, or they panicked and immediately called 911.

“It sounded like we’ve got an emergency going on. It was kind of scary,” said Joanne Specht.

She received the call and thought it was a message from the hospital regarding a relative. She dropped the phone and rushed to see what was the matter.

“Who knows where my brain was, because I was so concerned,” she said.

Specht was upset that the message was portrayed as a true emergency and not as a public notification. “To me an emergency is not a low-flying helicopter,” she said.

“They need to somehow change the beginning of the recording.”
Said Creasy, “There are two different message systems in place. We sent the emergency message. But we also want to use this for public communication. That is how this message should have gone out.”

The communication’s center will beef up its staff today and for future notifications to deal with possible calls, she said.

“And we have to provide training to staff,” Creasy said.


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