Southwick selects new emergency alert system

SOUTHWICK – The Town of Southwick has decided to make a change with their emergency alert notification system.

According to Southwick Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart, the town will start the process of going away from Blackboard Connect, their current emergency alert notification system that the town has used for at least the past 10 years. Emergency alert systems are used by municipalities to alert their residents and town employees about emergencies or town-wide events.

Moving forward, Southwick is looking use the Code Red system, which is a product of OnSolve, a company that provides notification and alert tools for all types of events that may occur.

Used by around 230 communities throughout Massachusetts, Code Red also serves over 10,000 communities across 16 states nationwide. The system has helped locate over 100 missing children in the commonwealth as well as 3,500 children in the United States.

Peter Applegarth of OnSolve is seen presenting the Code Red system at the meeting with Southwick town officials on March 28.(WNG File Photo)

Code Red has been used for major emergency events, like the Boston Marathon Bombings, when students, staff, and faculty at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) were notified through the Code Red system of a lockdown due to the bombing.

The Code Red system began in 1998 as a telephone system to make calls to residents about news for state and local government. Now, the Code Red system doesn’t just make town-wide calls to residents, it’s customized for the town to perform a specific function. For example, if there’s a water shut-off issue just in a certain neighborhood in Southwick, Code Red can be set up to only alert those residents in that neighborhood and not the entire community.

Code Red also features a mapping system that can show the town officials that are the administrators of the system of the exact pinpoint locations in town that they may need to focus on in case of an emergency. There’s also the option for a mobile app with Code Red, which is regarded as a tool that can alert people wherever they are.

After Peter Applegarth of OnSolve gave a presentation to Southwick town officials of Code Red on March 28, Fire Chief Russ Anderson and Chief of Police Kevin Bishop both gave recommendations to Stinehart to replace Blackboard Connect with Code Red.

Anderson has had a good experience with the Code Red System having worked with it with the Granby Fire Department before coming to Southwick.

“I think it’s a good system and it will give us a lot of options,” said Anderson. “We’ll be utilizing it in a lot of different platforms.”

Anderson added that a key aspect to Code Red that he likes is that the town will now be able to localize a specific emergency that may occur.

According to Stinehart, the plan is to implement the Code Red system into the town at some point after July 1 in order to allow some time for town officials to learn the system and transition from Blackboard Connect. Town officials will also be researching the necessary notifications process to transition to another vendor.

At this time, Southwick pays about $8,000 per year for Blackboard Connect. During the presentation, Applegarth told town officials that Code Red is estimated to cost them anywhere from $3,500 to $4,500 per year.

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