Police, fire chiefs have several takeaways from recent Vail emergency notification test
VAIL — Following a recent test of two emergency warning notification systems earlier this month, Vail public safety officials have concluded that a singular notification tool won’t be enough to reach those who may be in imminent danger.
Instead, Police Chief Dwight Henninger and Fire Chief Mark Novak are advising citizens to make sure they’re signed up for the Eagle County Alert notification system at http://www.ecalert.org as a first step and to anticipate receiving other alerts in the event of an emergency.
The recommendation follows a test of the Wireless Emergency Alert system, which was activated by the Vail Public Safety Communications Center on Wednesday, May 2. The test transmitted an alert to cellphones that was geographically targeted from East Vail to West Vail, with recipients invited to participate in a survey to help determine the accuracy of the test’s mapping coordinates.
The survey generated 264 respondents who helped document the test’s reach, according to Henninger. Many outside the targeted area received the test message, which was anticipated. However, there were others within the test area who did not receive the test message, which was unexpected, according to Henninger.
This test was the first of its kind in a mountainous area and results will be shared with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for further analysis. To encourage participation, survey-takers were entered into a random drawing for five $100 gift cards. The cards were awarded to Luis Aguilera, Shay Trent, Julie Stuck, Molly Rabin and Andrew Howard.
Also tested on May 2 was a long-range directional acoustical device that was temporarily installed at the West Vail Fire Station. Novak said the test messages could be heard on the speaker system at a distance of a quarter mile away and on the north and south sides of the interstate. He said the device showed great potential as a tool for both evacuation and mass notification at outdoor events. The next step is to follow up with a second demonstration using a multi-directional system.
The Eagle County Alert system, as recommended by Henninger and Novak, provides real-time notifications via text and/or email with details on road and weather advisories, as well as immediate notifications such as shelter-in-place, lock-down alerts and evacuation instructions.
Other emergency notification tools in use by the Vail Public Safety Communications Center include the Everbridge reverse 911 alert system, which is sent to land lines, as well as opt-in for cellphones and VOIP internet technology phones. The opt-in allows users to associate a cell or VOIP phone to a specific address for notifications. The 911 center also accepts text-to-911. For details, visit http://www.vail911.com.
In the event of a large-scale emergency within Vail or elsewhere in Eagle County, official information will be available at http://www.ecemergency.org. Residents are encouraged to review Vail’s evacuation plan at http://www.vailgov.com/evac and to develop a family disaster plan using resources at http://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan.