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Tornadoes. Severe thunderstorms. Flooding. Missing persons.
With all these emergency situations possible in Minnesota, it’s important to keep informed about critical information pertaining to a potential safety hazard or concern.
Isanti County is committed to keeping people as safe as possible by helping them stay alert about different emergency situations.
During the Isanti County Board meeting March 4, Isanti County Dispatcher Ross Benzen informed the board about the county’s new emergency alert program called Everbridge; this system replaces the formerly used CodeRED system.
The Everbridge system enables residents to receive critical information quickly for a variety of situations including severe weather, unexpected road closures, missing persons, railroad emergencies and evacuations of buildings or neighborhoods.
“CodeRed and Everbridge work the same; it’s an emergency notification system for Isanti County or for whatever county you’re in. If there’s any type of disaster, whether it’s a tornado, railroad emergency, a missing person, whatever it might be, we can send out information to the public letting them know about this emergency and to either take shelter, evacuate, be on the lookout, whatever it might be. Normally when those emergencies happen, it’s right now. And we need to get that information out.”
People who register for Everbridge specify how they want to receive the emergency notifications, whether it’s via home phone, cell phone, business phone, email address, text messages or more. To register for Everbridge visit the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office website at https://www.co.isanti.mn.us/346/Sheriff.
“I have researched the program for about a year. We had a year or so before our CodeRED contract was up, so I talked to other agencies that had Everbridge, attended an online webinar to learn more about the program, and spent time talking with Sheriff Chris Caulk about the pros and cons of the system,” Benzen said. “We both decided that Everbridge was a better product and the best for Isanti County. It offered more features, an easier platform to use and an unlimited use plan.”
Benzen appreciates the simplicity of the Everbridge program as well as the fact the system can be used to send emergency notifications pertaining to a specific events, such as the Isanti County Fair.
“Everbridge has an unlimited use plan, meaning we can use it as much as we need. Our CodeRED contract was a limited data plan, so we needed to be diligent on what was sent out. This never held us back from sending out emergency notifications, but we had to be aware of what we sent out. Everbridge is also an easier platform to use. Our 911 dispatch center can be chaotic at times. We have a short amount of time to get information out. I’ve found that this program is quick and easy. There are no launch codes or multiple steps. The simplicity of going to one page, entering information, choosing your audience, and clicking send is great,” Benzen said. “We have set up weather alerts for severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings. So, when the National Weather Service issues a warning, it will automatically be sent to all Everbridge users within Isanti County, when you choose to have weather alerts. We also will have the ability to make special events — things like the Isanti County Fair, the Isanti Rodeo, or Pie Day in Braham. We can create an event for people to text one word to a number. They are automatically signed up for emergency notifications. When the event is over, the information disappears. They won’t receive any further messages. So, those that are in town for an event, but do not live in Isanti County, can receive messages for that time.”
Benzen said Isanti County Dispatch will have access to Everbridge and will be able to send out any type of notifications that are needed. He said notifications can also be sent out within a certain radius or within the entire county.
“We can send it out pretty much any way that you want. You can literally build a square around an area and say you want it to go to these people,” Benzen said.
Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk explained the funding for Everbridge.
“Everbridge is a budgeted item, but it comes out of e-911. It is not using tax dollars, it’s using e-911 dollars, which is an approved expenditure,” Caulk said.
Benzen encourages Isanti County residents to sign up for Everbridge as soon as possible. Cards are available inside the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office that have a QR code on them that will automatically send people to the Everbridge link to sign up using their smart phone camera.
“We want people to sign up for their safety. Isanti County and the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office want to make sure people know what’s going on in our community,” Benzen said. “If there is a real emergency, we want people to know. This is a fast, easy, and secure way to get information out to the public. We only will send out emergency notifications. If there is a true emergency or we need the public’s help, we will use this program.”