This week, King County launched a new service to help keep residents informed about significant events and emergency situations.
King County Emergency Management rolled out ALERT King County on Wednesday. The service will notify subscribers about threats via text, email and telephone.
“We want our residents to have access to important information during an emergency that empowers them to make timely, smart decisions,” said Walt Hubbard, director of King County Emergency Management, in a county press release.
According to the release, ALERT is an enhanced regional emergency alert system.
Michelle Chatterton, emergency management program coordinator for the county, said the county has had an alert system in place, but after about a year of working on upgrading, ALERT has more capabilities such as geo-locating. This means residents can enter their home and work addresses for geographic-specific alerts.
Registration is free and confidential. Chatterton said if people were registered for the county’s previous alert service, they will have to re-register for ALERT.
The service is for anyone living in King County, even if they are within city limits and jurisdictions, Chatterton said. She added that most cities will go through the county to get information out to residents and there are only a few cities within the county that have their own alert systems. And even in those cases, Chatterton said cities may turn to the county to alert residents of regional events or if they are unable to send out alerts themselves.
“It’s a redundancy,” she said.
ALERT will be used to notify residents about emergency situations, threats to public health and safety and significant impacts to major infrastructure.
Chatterton said an example of when ALERT would have been used is when there was an E. coli outbreak on Mercer Island a couple years ago and residents were advised to boil their water before using it.
ALERT would also be used to notify residents of other situations such as evacuations, floods or some sort of chemical release, she said.
Chatterton also acknowledged that in some situations such as a major earthquake, not all of the pertinent information can be conveyed in a short message. In these cases, she said, the alert notification would direct residents to other places such as the county website to get more information.
While most land line telephone listings are already in the system through reverse 911 call information that allows dispatch to pinpoint the location of a caller if they are using a land line, Chatterton encouraged people to still sign up just in case, adding that they would not receive duplicate messages. In addition, people who use wireless phones are strongly encouraged to register.
To sign up for ALERT, visit www.kingcounty.gov/ALERTKingCounty and click “Subscribe” to get the process started. Once registered, users can edit the information they entered when changes are needed. The system accepts multiple email accounts, phone numbers and physical addresses, the release states.
Chatterton also encouraged residents to follow the county on its various social media pages, as well, for information during emergency events.
“(ALERT) is just one extra tool,” she said.
For more information on preparing for emergencies, visit www.kingcounty.gov/prepare.