New AlertSense Notification System a Money Saver for Valencia , New Mexico

posted: Thursday, May 25, 2017

LOS LUNAS — As a way to improve communications with the public, the Valencia Regional Emergency Communications Center is using a new notification system, and is encouraging residents to sign up.

Aaron Chavez, the administration services director for VRECC, said the center has switched from using CodeRed to AlertSense, a system that allows dispatchers to send emergency alerts, severe weather warnings and community notifications.

“It’s a very similar system to CodeRed,” Chavez said. “We found (AlertSense) to be a lot more user friendly on our end. We’re also setting different policies on what to use it for and what not to.”

Chavez said by switching to the new alert system, the center will be saving more than $15,000 a year. With CodeRed, the center was paying $25,000 a year, and will now be paying $9,500 a year with AlertSense.

“Not only is this good for the public, but it also has internal uses, such as group messaging, for SWAT call-outs and different groups and agencies,” he explained. “Also, our minute usage with this new system is unlimited, so we can use it as much as we want.”

Chavez said the free service will alert residents of what’s happening in a certain area, whether it be criminal activity, weather warnings or other notifications. Not only will VRECC be able to send out alerts, individual local agencies will be able to send specific alerts.

“If there’s a hostage situation or a school is in lock down, for example, they’ll get an alert,” he said.

The communications center can also get an additional service —IPAWS integrated public alert and warning system. Chavez said they can submit an application through FEMA and get trained for large-scale incidents and be able to automatically submit information to television stations to alert the public of the incident.

AlertSense subscribers can enter notification interests, preferred contact methods, locations, as well as language, special needs and delivery preferences. Subscribers select the types of alerts they want to receive, which can include:

Severe weather alerts: Deliver targeted alerts to public subscribers who are in the direct path of the storm, providing advanced warning of severe weather.

AlertSense receives direct feeds from the National Weather Service and automatically interprets the geographic area affected, and delivers targeted alerts immediately to subscribers in the impact area, with no staff action required.

Public safety alerts: Deliver emergency alerts from the state and public safety agencies, notifying subscribers of situations that threaten their personal safety such as crime/imminent danger, hazardous materials, and need for immediate evacuation, based on the subscriber’s location(s) and alert preferences.

Community notifications: Deliver notifications of events of interest to the subscriber, such as road closures, power outages and school weather closures.

“We’re hoping people will sign up to be able to get these alerts. With CodeRed, we had about 1,000 people signed up,” Chavez said. “It was a decent amount, but we’d like to increase those numbers. We’ll be doing more outreach to get people signed up because the more the database grows, the more powerful the tool is.”

This free service makes it easy to receive alerts. Residents can download the free AlertSense mobile app, or by going to loslunasnm.gov/VERCC to sign up.