Sign up now for new alert system

By: 
Alexis Barker, News Editor

Weston County Emergency Management is switching its emergency reporting/notification platform, moving from CodeRED to Nixle. The change in providers will require residents interested in receiving the notification to sign up for the new service. 

According to Gilbert Nelson, emergency management coordinator, the county decided to switch to Nixle for several reasons. 

“It is quicker and simpler to use for the dispatchers and those who will be given access to use it. It gives us the opportunity to be more proactive and send community messages for things such as important meetings, voting information, city street closures, etc.,” Nelson said in an email. “For weather alerts, dispatch won’t have to send those out, those are connected with Nixle and the NWS (National Weather Service) and will come out automatically, giving dispatch more time to focus on other things.” 

In addition to simplifying the notification process for dispatchers and other emergency personnel, individuals will have the ability to submit tips and alerts through the Nixle program. Nelson said these might include prison/jail escapes, wildfire, significant weather and other important information. 

“Another great feature is that we can give out a certain phone number to have people call,  reference the message instead of calling dispatch and inundating them with phone calls,” he said. 

The Nixle system also provides the ability to connect the messaging to various platforms to streamline the dissemination of the information. 

“Any message that is sent out will go directly to the Weston County Emergency Management Facebook page, so that is one way to get the information,” Nelson said. “But we will also try to always give the information to both newspapers and KASL as well. Newcastle Police Department will put it on the Facebook page as well. Sometimes, depending on the incident, it can take a bit of time to get it to all the outlets.” 

In emergency situations, National Weather Service’s warning coordination meteorologist Susan Sanders, said that it is important to get the information out as quickly as possible in as many ways as possible. 

“I would encourage people to have several ways to get warnings,” Sanders said, noting that in rural areas certain warning avenues may not reach all impacted individuals. “Every situation is different, and we try to hit as many notifications as possible.”

According to Sanders, the National Weather Service has been working with Weston County on the switch. She also reported that notification processes have changed drastically over the years, becoming easier and more streamlined. 

“When I first started with the National Weather Service, we had to get on the mic at the radio station, press live and start talking. You had to read the warning live on the air,” Sanders said. “Now it is all integrated with our systems and happens with the push of a button.”

While the National Weather Service uses NOAA Weather Radio to put out alerts and notifications, the process is similar to the one the county will use. 

The major difference, according to Sanders, is the National Weather Service’s use of cell towers to relay information to those within a certain proximity, while Nixle notifications are sent to those who have signed up for the service. Weston County School District No. 1 also uses a system that sends information to certain individuals. 

Sanders said that as time goes on, she imagines that these alert systems will become more streamlined and integrated, leapfrogging over each other. 

Until a one-size fits all notification system is possible, Weston County residents are encouraged to sign up for the new Nixle system to guarantee they are receiving all the important warnings for the area. Sanders said that some of this information will overlap, specifically notices about significant weather events such as severe thunderstorms, high wind warnings and snow squalls. 

It is likely, according to Sanders, that the county system will relay information on severe weather events in conjunction with weather radio alerts. She said that these notifications use different routes for identifying the target audience. 

Sanders explained that weather radio alerts are sent out through cell phone towers, sending the information to cell phones in a certain proximity, depending on the warning type. The county on the other hand, Nelson said, will use text messages, voicemails and emails sent to persons who sign up for the service. Notifications from the system will come from a local number, most likely the emergency management office cell phone number, instead of the 800 numbers used by CodeRed. Nelson said that he hopes this will prevent the calls from looking like scam. 

To sign up for Nixle, Nelson said, individuals should text the area code they live in to 888777. A link to sign up for Nixle’s service can also be found at westongov.com/homeland-security. 

After submitting the number to Nixle, people can go to nixle.com to set up their accounts. 

“If they prefer text, they need to choose that and not email,” Nelson said. 

News Letter Journal

News Letter Journal
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