AlertSense keeps Tribal community in-the-know quickly
Critical communication, both emergency and non-emergency, has been made easier by a program called AlertSense that is being used at the Tribal government campus in Grand Ronde.
AlertSense, which was established in 2002, is a communication technology that provides emergency alerting and critical services that are continually available and geographically dispersed through a cloud network.
AlertSense is not a real-time emergency notification system yet, but it possibly could be in the future. What AlertSense is right now is another layer to the important critical communication that needs to occur for the Tribe to conduct business on a daily basis.
“The goal is that we've got everyone enrolled in text and e-mail so that when we need to send out an alert that people are getting it instantly,” said Tribal General Manager David Fullerton. “Like anything, what you are doing for preparedness is key. I think it is vital to be able to communicate in any natural disaster or a crisis. We have to have some sense of communication with people even if it is just to give accurate information.”
Currently, there are four distinct “regions” of AlertSense in use on the Tribal campus.
The main region is the Tribal government and it is used primarily for emergency notification, but it can be used for special events or circumstances to announce other things that the Tribal government would want to relay to the community.
“Like many notification systems it has a lot of capabilities for messaging to get the word out for important messages,” said Emergency Operations Coordinator Steve Warden. “We used it for the Great Shakeout. We sent out a test message and had it been the real deal we would have been able to give information on where to go, where the contacts points for rally points are or where services are going to be located for evacuations or for shelter. There are any number of capabilities that we have with AlertSense.”
Warden said that because AlertSense originates from the Tribe, the information provided is more local and current.
Two of the regions are devoted to the Tribe's educational programs. One region is reserved for use by Youth Education (6-12) and the other is used for the Preschool (K-5).
“The reason we wanted to use AlertSense as a communication tool is to send out notifications to parents whether they are on campus or if they are off-campus or wherever they live,” said Education Program Manager Tim Barry. “It's a much faster way of communicating to people and we use it for upcoming events or for changes in the schedule. The technology actually allows us to see if they received the message or not.”
The fourth region is set aside for the Health & Wellness Center for its patient database. The clinic can use AlertSense to notify patients of potential appointment openings and send out reminders. The clinic also can use AlertSense to notify people on its database of upcoming events related to health and wellness opportunities.
“We started getting people signed up for AlertSense this past month,” said Health & Wellness Center Quality Improvement Manager Dawn Doar. “We're going to be using it to piggy-back off of what the Tribe already does notifying patients of impending situations, closures and if there are any events going on in the clinic that we would like to have patients be aware of.”
Doar said it will be a more streamlined process with mass notification capabilities rather than having a staff member individually call every one of the clinic's contact list.
Doar said that although the clinic has yet to actually use the system, she sees it being especially helpful during winter weather conditions.
The region where AlertSense technology has been put in use the most has been in the Education Department.
Youth Education Administrative Assistant Amber Yates sent out the program's first AlertSense notification on Monday, Oct. 24, when she notified parents of details for a planned, upcoming event for students.
“We are excited about the AlertSense program and this will be the first of many announcements through this communication tool,” said Yates in an e-mail announcing the program's use of the technology. “With this tool, we will be utilizing announcements through automated voice calls, through e-mails and social media.”
Yates said that Education gathered the necessary information to make the contacts through the annual application process. She urged people who want to get signed up to contact her at Youth Education.
“AlertSense is awesome,” said Education Department Manager Leslie Riggs. “It's another communication tool. We thought we needed a more effective tool to get the word out on important things.”
Network Administrator Greg Patton said AlertSense is the second messenger notification system the Tribe has used. Patton said that the Tribe used a program called AutoMessenger, but found there were problems and that the Tribe's Information Systems Department scrapped it in favor of AlertSense.
“We started looking around at other services and we selected AlertSense as the best option and we have been really pretty happy with it,” said Patton.
Patton, who previously worked for the Dayton School District before the Tribe, said the new system was first used during the Cascadia Rising earthquake drill this summer.
“That was really our first effort at using it for its main purpose,” said Patton.
Patton said the Tribe has barely scratched the surface of what AlertSense can do. He also said the Tribe can create as many “regions” as necessary to provide the communication needed to conduct the Tribe's business.
“I'll be the first to admit, we're not using it to its full potential,” said Patton. “We can have as many regions as we want without increasing our costs, which is a nice feature. We're still learning it and figuring out all of its capabilities and, yes, we will definitely be growing into it.”
Warden said the premium the Tribe places on communication is necessary to keep people safe and the business of the Tribe running smoothly.
“It's real important,” said Warden. “General messaging is nice, but say we have a big storm coming in and it is known that there is going to be damage, there is going to be flooding, there is going to be those type of things … we can use the AlertSense system to get messages out to our membership. We can let them know when we expect it to hit and what intensity it's going to be. Getting that early warning out and giving people an opportunity to get prepared and to get themselves into a position of safety is the basic premise.”
Warden said he and Tribal member Brandy Bishop, who works with Warden in the Tribe's Public Safety Office as an emergency management assistant, attended training with Patton during the second week of November.
“We want to make sure we have a good working knowledge of every aspect of it so we can utilize it to its fullest capabilities,” said Warden. “We're going to really get the nuts and bolts of it and try to figure out what we can do to utilize every aspect of it and make sure we are on top of everything.”