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Kandiyohi County to switch to Smart911 to alert public to emergencies

Kandiyohi County is replacing its emergency notification system with Smart911. The program sends out weather alerts and other emergency notifications to account holders in Kandiyohi County. The system also provides others ways for the county to distribute important information to the public.

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This summer Kandiyohi County will be switching over to the Smart 911 public notification system, which sends emergency messages to county account holders through email, phone calls and text messages. Notifications will include weather watches and warnings. File photo / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR β€” When severe weather is on the way or another emergency is occurring, nothing can be more important than accurate information and timely warnings.

"There are a lot of different ways to get information, but to get reliable information quickly is key," said Ace Bonnema, Kandiyohi County Emergency Management deputy director.

To help get county residents and visitors the information they need during emergencies, Kandiyohi County is joining the Smart911 emergency notification system, which will replace the current Everbridge system.

The county started looking for a new system following issues with Everbridge and public feedback. Smart911 was picked as the successor.

"This added a few more things and less money," Bonnema said.

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Kandiyohi County residents can start signing up for the new and free notification system immediately. A link to the Smart911 website can be found on the county's website at www.kcmn.us under the emergency management department. Big Stone County, for which Kandiyohi County provides dispatch services, will also start using Smart911.

"The website is up, it is live," said Melissa Kaisner, Emergency Management office support. Those with questions can contact Kaisner at 320-235-5133, ext. 3804.

After signing up, account holders can individualize which notifications they wish to receive and how to be notified. A person might want to get a call or text message about a tornado warning but not about a frost advisory.

"Hopefully, they're getting the notifications that are critical," Bonnema said.

Smart911 also allows people to have a safety profile, which would contain information first responders might need when responding to an emergency at the household.

There is a Smart911 downloadable app for cell phones, both Apple and Android devices. If an account holder has the app on their phone, they will also receive notifications from other Smart911 counties if the person is traveling through those locations.

Another piece of Smart911 allows the county to send out wireless notifications to all cell phones within a specific area, no matter if the phone holder has an account with Smart911 or not. This could be extremely important for those who might not know where to get information when they are visiting.

"It can be alerts that are important enough that we feel we need to alert everyone," said Bonnema. "We have a lot of visitors here. If someone is here on vacation at the lake and a tornado is coming," the county can still alert them.

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The county would also be able to interrupt radio broadcasts if the station does not have on-air talent 24 hours a day. The county would have a special code that would allow them to send out an alert live, even if there is no one at the radio station. Bonnema said the county is working with local stations.

"It gives us a broader audience to get that message out," Bonnema said.

Weather notifications will come from the National Weather Service. Other emergency notifications will come from Kandiyohi County. County dispatchers will type out the notification and push them out from the county law enforcement center.

Emergency Management director Kim Lindahl hopes the new system will work better for the public and provide better opportunities to get important information out when it is needed the most.

"We want them to stay in the system," Lindahl said.

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The Smart 911 system will also allow the county to send messages to members, such as a request for the public to stay clear of storm damaged areas or missing child alerts. Kelly Boldan file photo / West Central Tribune

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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