In less than a month, thousands of residents have signed up for Delaware County's new emergency-notification system.
The county earlier this month launched Delco Alerts, a service that sends email and text alerts to residents when severe weather occurs. The system also will be used to call, email and text residents when a boil advisory has been implemented or people have been advised to seek shelter.
The system supersedes the CodeRed Community Notifications program, which ceased operation in the county March 11. The county ended its weather-alert program through CodeRed in 2016.
Sandy Mackey, spokeswoman for the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency, said the new Delco Alert system differs from the CodeRed system in its focus on email and text messages. Mackey said the pace at which the old phone-based alerts reached residents made the system impractical.
"It's very important if there's a storm coming through (that) people get a timely alert," she said.
County officials also expect to save money from the transition. The CodeRed alerts cost the county about $25,000 per year, while it will spend about $20,000 per year on the Delco Alert system.
Patrick Brandt, director of emergency communications for the county, said he sees another benefit to the new alerts.
"The biggest thing I do like better is -- if we do send out a notification -- it does show up as one of our office numbers," he said.
Brandt said some community-notification systems send out messages from 1-800 numbers, but Delco Alert allows officials to send them from the EMA or other county agencies' numbers. He said that should help residents realize a Delco Alert message is the real deal and not spam.
Massachusetts-based Everbridge will administer Delco Alert for the county, which also can use the messaging technology internally to relay messages to law-enforcement officers and other officials during emergency situations.
Brandt said some residents may see the lack of phone calls during a weather emergency as a downside. He said county officials may look at providing that service in the future, but any such system would need to be able to make a large number of calls almost instantaneously to be worthwhile.
Mackey said more than 23,000 county residents had signed up for CodeRed alerts before the program ended. She said more than 6,100 residents had signed up for the new Delco Alert system by the end of last week.
"We want to get the word out and get people to sign up because we think this will be a really good system for the county," she said.
To register for the new alerts, residents may visit delco911.org/index.php/delco-alerts. Residents who previously signed up for the CodeRed alerts will not be transferred to the new system automatically.
Mackey said residents who signed up for notifications through the previous vendor were able choose whether their contact information could be provided to a third party. She said this prevents the county from signing up everyone who used the old system to the new one.
Mackey said she does not necessarily see this as a negative.
"Phone numbers change and people don't always want the alerts," she said.
Residents who do not have access to email or text-messaging devices may call the Delaware County EMA at 740-833-2180 to discuss alternatives. Mackey said county employees can help residents program their weather radios to receive notifications.