County to operate reverse 911 system for emergencies

Jim Pokrandt

SUMMIT COUNTY – The same 911 system used to call for emergency help soon will become a way for authorities to alert citizens of dangers such as wildfire.

The reverse 911 system allows authorities to call neighborhoods or all the phone numbers in the county. It will cost $15,000 to set up and about $1,300 a month in recurring monthly fees, according to Abbie Cobb, Summit County’s emergency services coordinator.

The system would include all non-published numbers and PB numbers behind systems in hotels, resorts and large offices.

Access to the Emergency Preparedness Network (EPN), as the system is known, will be by password.

The county’s Emergency 911 Board will set up protocols to manage access and use of the system.

When put into action, EPN can dial up to 1,152 calls simultaneously. As it completes each call, it dials a new number.

If a number is busy or not answered, it can be redialed up to nine times. Answered calls, including answering machines, are considered completed calls.

Cobb said the system also could be used to create a call list of emergency personnel in the county for use during incidents.

An emergency call broadcast can be accomplished by approved people via the telephone or by Internet connection with a computer.

When the system is activated, the county 911 system will be charged 23 cents per connected 30-second call.

The EPN system will be purchased from a partnership of Qwest and a company called Intrado. All equipment will be off site and managed by the vendor.

Summit County’s EPN will be tied into Eagle County’s for reasons of cost efficiency and redundancy. Either county will be able to alert the other should a breakdown occur.

Funding for the system and monthly fees will not come from the county’s beleaguered general fund but from the 911 fund.

Residential telephone customers currently pay 70 cents a month to support the 911 system.

County commissioners approved the reverse 911 system even though the purchase was not bid out. County Manager Ron Holliday cautioned against “getting too comfortable with sole sourcing.”

Qwest put the same system into effect this summer to help counties without it alert people about wildfires.

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