Hertford County approves DeltAlert

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WINTON – In the event of an emergency situation, the quicker those possibly in harm’s way are notified, the better the chances are for survival.

That was the thought process behind a decision made by the Hertford County Board of Commissioners here Monday night when they unanimously approved the investment of nearly $15,000 in a mass notification system.

The board agreed to a three-year, $14,995 contract with DeltAlert, a Texas based company that enables users to make time-sensitive announcements to its citizenry.

Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith said the idea of such a notification system was discussed following the flooding event that occurred in the county in late September/early October.

“One of the items that was brought up in the ‘after-action’ debriefing meeting was that we experienced difficulty in notifying our citizens in a timely manner,” Smith said. “When you’re in a state of emergency there is an immediate need to deliver information as quickly as possible, especially when that information changes or is updated.”

Smith said several vendors that offer information-sharing systems were looked at as possibilities for contractual services to the county. He added that he also looked at what other counties were doing in the way of using a mass notification system.

“We settled in on DeltAlert,” Smith said. “They’re a fairly new company, but one with a good track record. They are getting a lot of business in the state due to their pricing. We compared their prices to two others (Code Red and First Call) offering the same service.”

Smith produced a DeltAlert cliental list that included references in support of their brand of service from 11 North Carolina counties, including Gates, Craven, Pamlico, Vance, Greene and Beaufort.

Using an internet-based program, DeltAlert can send out mass information by land line telephone, cell phone, text message, fax or e-mail. That information is generated by the user (the county) by uploading a custom audio file; recording a message via telephone; or using DeltAlert’s text-to-speech feature to generate a realistic voice message.

The information can be shared countywide or designated for one specific area if so warranted.

Hertford County citizens can go online and register for how they want the information delivered. The county will build a database of those who do not register and send information to them by land line telephone. It can be used not only for weather-related events/natural disaster, but also for missing children (Amber Alerts), chemical leaks/spills, terrorist threats, etc. It would also been ideal to use during the recent event over in Murfreesboro with the contaminated water.

For a total of $14,995 over a three-year period, Smith said the county has 150,000 minutes annually to deliver important messages to its citizens. Unused minutes can roll over to the following year. If the county exceeds its annual allotment of minutes, DeltAlert charges six cents per message.

“One hundred and fifty thousand minutes should cover us in a year’s time,” Smith noted. “The roll-over minutes were also a big selling point for us. The other two companies do not allow (unused) minutes to roll from one year to the next.”

The county can use its share of the E-911 surcharge funds to pay for the service. Those funds are earmarked for new purchases or upgrades to emergency response systems.

Commissioner Bill Mitchell offered a motion to purchase the DeltAlert system. The motion was approved without objection.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal