Because you can never have too many ways to communicate, County Executive Andy Spano is announcing a new effort that would bring members of the public more “into the loop” during a large-scale emergency by allowing the county to contact them directly.
With the County Emergency Notification System (CENS), information can be sent by email and/or text messaging to mobile phones or devices before, during or after a major storm or other disaster. Residents can get immediate updates on what’s happening and find out what they should do or where they should go.
“We certainly hope to never need this. However, we’ve learned from both 9/11 and Katrina that communication is paramount in times of emergency and we have to be prepared,” Spano said. “If a major incident were to happen in Westchester we would want to reach as many people as possible and give them the information they need to be safe.”
These “news bulletins” would supplement the reports the county feeds to television, radio and other sources. Spano noted that this is one more way to keep people informed and it shouldn’t replace individual or family emergency planning.
“If people give us their e-mail addresses and phone numbers, we will have a number of options when it comes to getting information out. We will also be able to communicate directly just as we now do with our emergency responders, local officials and the media,” he said. “At times, we may also use an automated call system to contact people by cell or home phone.”
People can sign up to be contacted by going to www.westchestergov.com and clicking on the emergency banner at the top of the page. All information will be kept confidential. The service also includes non-profit groups and businesses, which are being mailed passwords and User IDs and directions on how to submit their emergency contact information.
CENS is already used to notify local officials, county legislators, county commissioners and emergency responders. Time permitting, the Department of Emergency Services will now be able to send out notices about a pending severe weather event such as a blizzard or other major storm directly to the public. Information can also be provided after the emergency about issues such as road or health hazards, supplies, re-entry to damaged areas, etc.
While this system will be helpful in an emergency, it is obviously dependent upon available power and working phone lines. Families should continue to take all necessary steps to prepare for an emergency, such as keeping battery-powered portable radios, flashlights and medicine on hand. For more tips, visit www.ready.gov.
In a major emergency, the Emergency Alert System will continue to be activated via broadcasts on both television and local radio stations and the public is encouraged, as always, to stay tuned to these local broadcasts for instructions and information.