China’s town manager, Dennis Heath, is excited about a new emergency contact system the town is rolling out next year. Called Hyper-Reach and developed by Ashergroup, based in Rochester, New York, the application is an opt-in emergency broadcast system that can notify residents of important announcements, weather advisories and emergency alerts.
Notifications can take the form of emails, texts or automated calls, depending on the preference of the resident. Since the system is “opt-in”, residents will need to sign-up for the service before they will start receiving notifications. This can be done at the town’s Hyper-Reach portal, which can be found by clicking on the Hyper-Reach logo at the bottom left of the town’s website, or at the town office where the staff will be happy to assist residents with the sign-up process. Also, look for postcards explaining the process which will soon be sent to all residents.
When a resident registers for the service, they will be asked for their name and both a postal and street address. Depending on whether the resident wishes to receive alerts by email, text or automated phone call, an email address or phone number is also required. There are two types of alerts you can sign up to receive: Community Alerts or Weather Alerts.
Town Manager Dennis Heath says he is still working with China’s Emergency Preparedness Committee to formulate a policy for what kind of situations would initiate a Community Alert, but offered the examples of a fire at the transfer station requiring an unexpected closure, or weather conditions that necessitated closing the town office early. Heath also suggested that the system could be used to make announcements about local events like China Days, but conceded it’s possible the system should only be used in specific emergency situations. These are some of the questions he is working out with the Emergency Preparedness Committee.
The emergency notification system includes functions allowing the administrator to only select for notification of residents within a specified geographical region. For example, if there is a house fire, residents with properties near the location of the fire could be notified without sending an alert to the entire town.
The system also allows residents to sign up for Weather Alerts. Unlike Community Alerts, Weather Alerts are sent by the national weather service rather than town staff. These notifications would be sent out when there is an important weather advisory, such as for a major storm, a danger of local flooding or some other extreme weather event.
It’s important to note that neither the town staff or other town officials, such as the selectboard or town committees, will have visibility within the system to any name and address information associated with residents, and individual residents cannot be targeted for specific notices. Instead, notices sent through the system by staff must either be sent to everyone in the system or be limited to a specific geographic region. In this way, the Hyper-Reach program provides emergency notifications while still protecting residents’ individual information.
Heath also mentioned that access to the system and those having the ability to send out emergency notices would be severely limited to prevent abuse of the system. At the moment, the town manager is the sole individual with such authority, although someone on the town staff may be designated for the role in the future.
There is a second side of the Hyper-Reach system which is geared more for internal town functions. This other, “internal” side of the system is completely separate from the wider emergency functions described above. This side of the system allows the town staff to input the names of people who sit on town committees. Once this is done, notifying people of upcoming meetings or letting members know of a sudden cancellation can be done instantly and will save hours of phone time that usually requires a staff member. Heath thinks this functionality will make the office much more efficient and productive.
This internal, non-emergency functionality may also be extremely useful to committees such as the China for a Lifetime Committee which is attempting to organize large groups of volunteers for community projects, since a lot of time is often spent trying to get in touch with people.
The entire Hyper-Reach emergency system is costing the town of China $3,900 per year. Town Manager Dennis Heath says to make the system worth the money, he is hoping to get at least one thousand residents to sign up for the service within the first year. There is no charge to China residents who wish to enroll.
Any questions about the new system should be directed to the town office at email@example.com or 445-2014.
Click here to sign-up for China’s new Hyper-Reach emergency notification system. (China residents only.)