County emergency, health agencies assess readiness
September is “National Preparedness Month,” and county emergency and health agencies are busy evaluating and assessing their ability to deal with a myriad of scenarios, from extreme weather to accidents to fires to flu prevention. But community members also play a key role in staying safe, says Nevada County public health coordinator Patti Carter, and there are now key resources every citizen should be aware of.
As of June 1, 2014, Nevada County has a new emergency and mass notification provider. The county has now transitioned from “CityWatch” to the industry-leading, high-speed mass notification system, CodeRED.
The transition offers Nevada County residents access to technologies that were not previously available, Carter said. Public safety officials will be able to communicate time-sensitive messages more effectively using the CodeRED system’s dialing infrastructure that is entirely managed by its parent company, Emergency Communications Network. This access will allow calls to be delivered seconds after public safety officials launch a message. Additionally, Nevada County will have the ability to better target notifications geographically, only notifying those community members impacted by an alert.
Nevada County residents who previously registered with CityWatch have been transferred to the new CodeRED system, however all residents of Nevada County are encouraged to update their existing information and enroll additional contact information through the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services enrollment page at MyNevadaCounty.Com/nc/igs/oes/Pages/Home.aspx.
Contact information will remain private, and registered CodeRed phone numbers will only be used by public safety officials for emergency notification.
“CodeRED will be used to send critical communications, from bio-terrorism alerts, boil water notices, missing child alerts to evacuation notices,” said Carter. “Another important feature is that you can register your number even if you don’t live in the area. For example, if you live in Southern California, you can get calls alerting you that grandma is being evacuated. This is the public’s way of keeping themselves safe. They could get messages such as ‘fallen trees,’ ‘stay in your home’ or fire alerts near your residence.”
Those who are registered will recognize a CodeRED call when caller ID displays the following numbers:
• 866-419-5000 or Emergency Comm for Emergency Notifications.
• 855-969-4636 or ECN Community for General Notifications.
Those who need to hear the last message delivered can simply dial the number back.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), research on personal disaster preparedness found that those who believe they are prepared for disasters often are not as prepared as they think. Others admit they do not plan to prepare at all. The challenge for county agencies is encouraging participation in disaster preparedness at the community level.
Emergency managers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMT/paramedics, and other emergency responders cannot do it alone, said Carter, and it’s important to remember that all residents are also stakeholders. For example, individuals should be sure to always have enough medication to last several days in the event of a snow storm, or battery power back up for home oxygen systems.
When it comes to personal preparedness, two websites can provide a wealth of information regarding steps to prepare your home and family, added Carter:
• Nevada County Office of Emergency Services at: http://www.mynevadacounty.com/nc/igs/oes/Pages/Home.aspx
• FEMA: http://www.ready.gov
The Nevada County Public Health Department’s Emergency Preparedness Program will be testing an alternative method of giving medications to the public quickly, as though it were a true emergency event. To practice, they are providing a cost-free drive-through flu clinic from 3 to 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at Twin Cities Church, 11726 Rough and Ready Highway in Grass Valley.
“You just drive up, roll down the window and roll up your sleeve,” said Carter. “You never leave your car – it’s that easy.”
This exercise is only for children and adults ages 4 and up, and walk-ups will be not be allowed for safety reasons. Participants must wear clothing that allows access to the upper arm that is closest to the window of the car (left arm for driver’s side and right arm for passenger side).
“This is a win-win,” said Carter. “You get a free flu shot and we get to run through our emergency preparedness exercise — this is our practice. We’ll be testing walkie talkies, traffic flow, etc.”
Other flu clinics will be available later in the year, but will include a small fee. For more information, visit http://www.mynevadacounty.com/nc/hhsa/ph/Pages/Home.aspx.
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.
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