You’re familiar with the saying, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Since September is Disaster Preparedness Month, we want to equip business owners with the information they need to prepare for disaster. Last week, we interviewed Fae Shaffer of Refresh Technologies who talked about securing data through innovative IT solutions. This week, we have some vital information to share with you from Stacie Neal of CharMeck Alerts. Continue reading, and Stacie will explain how these alerts can help you protect your business!
CharlotteBusinessResources.com (CBR): Tell us a little bit about CharMeck Alerts. How does it work?
Stacie Neal (SN): CharMeck Alerts is an emergency and non-emergency notification system. Anyone who lives, works, or travels through Mecklenburg County is encouraged to register for the system. Registration takes about 5 minutes and allows you to enter up to five locations within the county on which to receive alerts. By signing up to participate in the system, you are automatically registered for emergency alerts. During the registration process you also have the option to subscribe to non-emergency alerts of interest to you. Non-emergency alerts range from traffic and weather alerts, to solid waste collection schedule changes and special events. The system covers the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and the six towns within the County.
CBR: Which devices or platforms can individuals use to receive alerts?
SN: Alerts can be distributed through any combination of the following: text, email, pager, mobile phone, landline phone, TTY/TDD, or on the smartphone application, Everbridge Mobile Member.
CBR: How was the idea conceived, and what are its goals?
SN: Our previous Reverse911 system had antiquated hardware and used older technology. With that system, we could only communicate with citizens via landline phones listed in the white pages. We wanted to upgrade our system to use newer technology and allow citizens to control the methods by which they were notified. In addition, the City Manager wanted a notification system to notify employees of important and emergency information. So, this system serves not only as a means of notifying citizens but also of notifying city, county, and town employees internally.
CBR: What specific challenges is it attempting to resolve?
SN: The system is hosted outside of the City’s network, in three data centers across the country, which gives us both the redundancy and the ability to continue normal operations should we experience an emergency in the Charlotte area. CharMeck Alerts provides an all-encompassing system for the City, the County, and all six Towns to use one notification system for both internal and external emergency and non-emergency communications. Streamlining the notification process not only makes notifying citizens easier, but it makes for one central location from which citizens can obtain information about their community.
CBR: How does CharMeck Alerts differ from Notify Me? How is it similar?
SN: Both CharMeck Alerts and NotifyMe are systems that communicate from local government to the citizens. CharMeck Alerts sends both emergency and non-emergency notifications, while NotifyMe sends only non-emergency communications. CharMeck Alerts can send notifications via an array of methods, including text, email, pager, mobile phone, landline phone, TTY/TDD, and mobile app. NotifyMe, on the other hand, can only send messages through email, with a select few going out via text. CharMeck Alerts and NotifyMe both allow the citizen the ability to register and choose non-emergency subscriptions. In addition, CharMeck Alerts uses the white pages and yellow pages to reach citizens for emergency situations.
CBR: To whom will CharMeck Alerts appeal?
SN: CharMeck Alerts appeals to every generation, no matter their level of technology usage. It appeals to those living within the county, those who work in the county, and those who only travel through the county. If you work, live, or travel through Mecklenburg County, CharMeck Alerts is for you! All you need is one geographic location (an address) within the County, and you can be added to receive emergency notifications. If you so choose, you can also subscribe to non-emergency notifications.
CBR: How do you anticipate it will benefit the community?
SN: CharMeck Alerts allows the citizen to control why and how they are notified. It offers smart, personalized messages that target individuals based on their geographic location. As we all know, Mecklenburg County covers a lot of land area. An issue arising in the northern part of the county may not affect the uptown or southern parts of the county. These real-time, targeted messages will allow citizens to keep abreast of all activities, both emergency and non-emergency. In addition, some alerts, such as prescribed burn warnings, will assist in keeping the call volume to the 9-1-1 center down and allow telecommunicators to assist callers who are experiencing a real emergency.
CBR: If you had to give an “elevator pitch” to a business owner, explaining why they should register for CharMeck Alerts, what would you say?
SN: Emergencies can occur every day with no warning. We want to give you the information you need to help keep you safe and avoid emergency situations. CharMeck Alerts helps you to stay up-to-date regarding situations occurring in and around the areas you frequent and notifies you via your chosen methods/devices.
CBR: How can individuals register?
SN: There are three ways to register for CharMeck Alerts:
1) Visit www.charmeckalerts.org, and complete the registration process. An email address is required to register using this method.
2) Download the EverBridge Mobile Member application and register your device. This method only subscribes you to emergency alerts. An email address is required to register using this method.
3) Call 3-1-1. This option is for those individuals who do not have an email address or access to a computer.
4) Fill out the paper form and mail it back to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management via the pre-addressed envelope.
CBR: Why am I already receiving messages if I have not yet registered?
SN: If you are published in the white pages or yellow pages, your landline phone is already listed in our system. In order to control the methods by which you are notified and to register for non-emergency notifications, you must still register for CharMeck Alerts.
In the little over six months that CharMeck Alerts has been in place, more than 8,500 individuals have registered. We would like to encourage everyone who lives, works, and travels through Mecklenburg County to register and help this system grow. You never know when an emergency will occur in your area, but CharMeck Alerts will make sure you are aware if something happens!