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Now 911 can call us

Donna Daniels

Just imagine, being able to get a phone call from the sheriff’s department warning of an impending emergency.

As of Monday, that’s just what can happen, thanks to the recently installed Reverse 911 system.

Qwest Communications and Intrado Inc. offered the technology to the county because of the Coal Seam Fire.

“They saw the devastation of the fire and wanted to know if we were interested,” said Garfield County emergency communications director Bob Kibler. “They agreed to furnish it to Garfield County for the fire season at no cost.”

Reverse 911 does just what it sounds like.

Using the 911 technology that allows individuals to dial those three numbers and reach an emergency services agency, Reverse 911 allows counties or cities to call all the people in a geographic area to warn them of an impending emergency.

The system became operational Monday, Kibler said.

Using technology provided by Qwest, Intrado, a data management company based in Boulder, manages the 911 database and makes the calls in a given area, Kibler said.

For example, if the county wanted to warn residents in Mitchell Creek, Kibler would request Intrado to provide phone numbers for all the residents within a quarter-mile area around the intersection of Donegan and Mitchell Creek Road, Kibler said.

“They can do one block or a 100 yards,” Kibler said.

Intrado then identifies all the phone numbers in that area, including unlisted and unpublished numbers, and sends out a message to those telephones.

“They can dial 1,100 numbers in one minute,” Kibler said.

The county can specify how many times to have an automatic dial-back if there is a busy signal. If it reaches a fax machine, it will search the database for a residential number.

However, it cannot override call blocking or what Kibler called “telezappers,” machines that identify computer generated calls and erase the owner’s number from the telemarketing database, he said.

“It won’t erase data out of the 911 system, but (the Reverse 911 call) won’t get through,” he said.

Naturally, Kibler would like to keep the system in place. But it costs.

Currently, the county is looking to share the cost of the system with Pitkin and Mesa counties.

The initial setup, if the three counties partner, would be $20,000 for each county and about $13,000 per year each to maintain, Kibler said.

“If we do it on our own, it’s $40,000 for the setup and $26,000 a year,” he said.

There is also an additional charge for each call, at 23 cents for 30 seconds, Kibler said.

Whether or not the county keeps the Reverse 911 system, it will be a benefit for as long as it lasts.

“It’s sure going to be nice if we need it,” Kibler said.


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