Eagle County’s alert system needs more than signing up

You also need to tell the system what you want, and the best way to reach you

Eagle County’s emergency notification has thousands of subscribers, but a number of those people need to finish the sign-up process.
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It’s pretty easy to sign up for emergency information for Eagle County. But there’s more to it than just registering.

Eagle County emergency alert information, from highway closures and accidents to wildfire, flood and other emergency information, is easily available via Everbridge, which can send messages via both text messages and email. The system is free.

Once you sign up, there are a few other steps to take. The biggest one is letting Everbridge know how to contact you, whether via text or email. Marc Wentworth is the director of the Vail Public Safety Communications Center. That’s where the call goes when you dial 911 and is the source of the Everbridge notifications.

Wentworth said a number of people have signed up for the service, but haven’t then selected what kinds of alerts they want. Those alerts can include road incidents, fire information and information from various schools. Alerts can also be narrowed down to individual communities if desired.

On the other hand, there are those who have essentially selected the entire menu of alerts. That brings a lot of pings and buzzes.

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“Our fear is (users) will become numb” to the alerts, Wentworth said.

Group alerts — alerts for specific communities or areas — are just one function of the Everbridge alerts.

There are also reverse notifications, commonly known as “reverse 911.” Those alerts are delivered to land line phones in a specific area. Those alerts are sent to a targeted area, or a dispatcher can hand-draw an alert area on a screen.

Wentworth called those reverse alerts a “scalpel,” since they can be sent to specific areas. The reverse system was used in 2020 to evacuate the Eby Creek Mesa area near Eagle due to a wildfire.

Similar to the reverse alerts are what’s called the “IPAWS” system. That federal system targets cell phones in a specific area. An operator draws a polygon on an on-screen map and a call goes out to all cell phones in that area.

That system is less accurate than the regular Everbridge system, according to a fact sheet from the communications center.

Wentworth said he’s confident in the current reliability of the Everbridge system. But it only works if you sign up, then tell the system how to reach you.

By the numbers

Here’s a look at local sign-up data for the Everbridge emergency alert system

21,629: People who only get emergency alerts by email

2,000: Approximate number of people who have signed up for alerts but didn’t give any contact information

6,378: People have downloaded the Everbridge app

4,000: People who have signed up, but haven’t subscribed to any alerts.

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