Warning!: County residents encouraged to sign up for new alert system
WILLMAR –– Getting a heads-up warning about dangerous weather, a neighborhood evacuation or an emergency road closure is now available to Kandiyohi County residents through a new citizens’ alert system.
Sheriff Dan Hartog showcased the new system Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Commissioners.
The county signed an agreement in December with Everbridge Mass Notification to provide the citizen alert system.
It replaces a different “reverse 911” service called Nixle the county used from 2010 to the fall of 2013 that had limited applications and was cumbersome for emergency dispatchers to use, said Hartog.
The new service allows residents to select how they want to be notified of emergencies that could affect their safety, with the ability to select multiple options like text, email, cell phone, home land line, work phone, instant messaging or fax.
“It’s a great way to get the message out there quick,” said Hartog.
But to receive the notifications of emergencies, like a summer tornado warning, people need to sign up by going online to the county’s website, where a link to the citizen alert system is located.
Even people who had been enrolled in the old system will need to update contact information with the new service, which is up and running, said Hartog.
County staff will be getting the word out and will help people sign up for the notification system at public events, including today’s open house for the emergency medical services that takes place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Willmar Ambulance garage on Becker Avenue Southwest.
“We want to get people signed into the system,” said Hartog.
Multiple family members and multiple phone numbers can be included in one notification account, said Heather Bonnema, a county information system specialist.
That could make it easier for people to enroll elderly parents who may not have a computer but want to get the call if there is severe weather heading their way.
The system allows people to pick and choose what kind of notifications they want to receive, including alerts from the National Weather Service.
Because many National Weather Service alerts, like fog or excessive heat warnings, are not emergencies and because those alerts are often sent at 4 a.m., there are options for blocking calls from the weather service during specific times.
But Bonnema said true weather emergencies, like a tornado, that are sent from the dispatch center would override any time block.
The system will keep notifying a person until there’s confirmation the warning has been received.
That could mean if no one answers the home phone, the system will call the cell phone, or send a text or email the warning until there’s a response.
“There’s a lot of power in this,” said Bonnema.
The county’s 911 data were recently installed in the system, which will allow dispatchers to pinpoint areas to notify.
Hartog said, for example, if a child is lost in the northern part of the county, residents in that neighborhood will get the message.
“We can tailor where the notifications need to go,” he said.
The $16,000 annual fee for the system is being paid with funds generated by 911 telephone fees.
Kandiyohi County also manages the system for Big Stone County, for an annual fee of $3,700.
In other action Tuesday:
- With the upcoming retirement of Public Works Director Gary Danielson, the County Board of Commissioners agreed to a plan that includes advertising for a new public works director/county engineer and having Danielson transition to a part-time position. Working part-time will allow Danielson time to train in a new engineer and/or public works director and also to undertake several projects, including working with townships on road turnback efforts.
- A conditional use permit was approved for Knisley Johnson to have a home business of hosting indoor/outdoor catered events, like weddings, reunions and birthday parties at his residence in New London Township. The permit includes 11 conditions, including limiting the number of events, size of the crowd and that no alcohol be served.
- The commissioners were notified that Willmar artist Ron Adams received a grant to paint a large mural that will be located in the Health and Human Services building.
Kandiyohi County awards contracts for road projects
- The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with Central Specialties Inc. for the county’s 2014 bituminous surfacing projects, which includes about 28 miles of resurfacing work on roads throughout the county.
The Alexandria company was the low bidder at $3,065,583, beating out the only other bidder, Duininck Inc. of Prinsburg, which had a bid of $3,491.118.
The estimate for the project was $3.5 million.
- R & G Construction Co. of Marshall had the low bid of $677,164 for grading and surface projects on County Road 107 and County Road 138, which was approved by the commissioners. Duininck was the other bidder at $695,395. The project was estimated at $746,565.
- With a low bid of $164,920, Swenson & Sons Construction of New London was awarded a contract for a final cover for a section of the landfill. Duininck was the other bidder with a proposal of $234,763. The project was estimated at $254,127.