Delaware County has decided to pull the plug on its reverse-911 call-back system to warn of dangerous weather because too many users were causing it to bog down.

Delaware County has decided to pull the plug on its reverse-911 call-back system to warn of dangerous weather because too many users were causing it to bog down.

The county began using CodeRED in 2008 with a few hundred users. Through heavy promotion, that jumped to about 20,000 who receive automated phone and email warnings connected to National Weather Service forecasts.

But the system itself notified users last week that they no longer would receive emergency alerts for floods, thunderstorms and tornadoes. The service will end May 22.

Sean Miller, director of the county's emergency management agency, said the system, designed to call back users in batches of about 1,000 at a time, was too slow.

On May 7, for example, the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm alert at 3:19 p.m. CodeRED began its warning calls to about 7,357 residents in the affected area at 3:21 p.m. with the last calls arriving at 3:30 p.m., 11 minutes after the original alert.

Miller said newer systems, including text messages from the weather service and wireless emergency alerts -- available with certain cellphones -- are quicker and cost the county nothing.

By dropping the weather alerts, the county will save about $18,000 annually. However, Miller said cost savings were not part of the decision.

He said use of the service in the state's fastest-growing county had less value in recent years.

"I don't think that it was a mistake," Miller said. "Now we're to the point that there are more options for the individual resident."

A companion CodeRED system advising residents of smaller-scale community alerts such as jail escapes, active shooters, evacuations, boil alerts or missing children is being maintained at a cost of about $25,000 annually.

Teri Friedler, marketing director for Florida-based Emergency Communication Network, which owns CodeRED, said the county did "a fantastic job marketing it," and that she had heard the decision was financial and not based on poor service.

CodeRED sends out huge alert volumes, but they are sometimes mishandled by cellphone carriers, she said.

"All of these message are sent to the cellular towers," she said. "Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of control over those choke points."

She said residents should use weather radios, tornado sirens and old-fashioned land lines, ideal for shut-ins or those without electricity, to supplement newer technology.

Mobile devices fail, she said, "if you don't charge your cellphone or don't have a cellphone or have turned your cellphone off at night."

Friedler said she had not heard of any of CodeRED's 10,000 municipal users discontinuing their service for Delaware's reasons. For more information, visit delcoema.org or call 740-833-2180.