Hyper Reach seeks sign-ups

Published 5:11 pm Sunday, September 20, 2015

WINDSOR – We may be only halfway through hurricane season, but preparedness is a year-round proposition.

At the Sept. 8 meeting of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners, county Emergency Services Director Mitch Cooper led all Board members and relevant County staff in a public officials conference and reviewed the County’s Emergency Management operational plan.

“Every year we try to do something for the public officials and County Commissioners as far as the Emergency Management program we have here in the county,” said Cooper. “It’s not the biggest highlighted program because we really don’t show up until things get really bad.”

Cooper then reviewed the county’s preparedness program in a PowerPoint presentation that also introduced the Commissioners to the new alert system, Hyper Reach.

“This is what we can do for all hazards, not just hurricanes and tornadoes, not man-made hazards that we deal with every day,” he said.

The four phases, Cooper emphasized, are: preparedness (being pro-active to crisis), response (fire, law, rescue, state & federal), recovery (assistance from resources), and mitigation (assistance with funding).

“If a disaster exceeds our capabilities then we go through Emergency Management and call (other counties or the state) for resources,” Cooper declared.

Because of flooding, especially along the county’s rivers, response has been updated with a fiber phone system for the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the Council on Aging Building, located in Windsor.

“Once you get declared, that’s what everything goes through because it’s a whole lot easier for a municipality to say they need a generator, or meals, a pump, or manpower” he said.

Bertie County is some 741 square miles; 690 square miles of which are land mass.

“We’re the center of the Albemarle district (for the Red Cross),” he noted. “That’s a great asset when it comes to distribution in having them here.”

Cooper’s presentation touched on the county’s shelters, medical facilities, hazard areas, special needs registry, and damage assessment.

“We have a lot of resources in this county that our citizens can depend on in case of emergencies,” the director stated. “A lot goes on during a disaster and we want to make sure this county is protected, liability-wise also.”

Cooper said the local emergency planning committee was contacted this year and opted for a three-year contract with Hyper Reach, a system that allows EMS to relay potentially life-saving information to county residents.

The new system sends out emergency messages from a variety of devices, including cell phones, to warn residents of an emergency within the geographical area a disaster may affect.

“It works very well,” he said. “We can send text messages, emails, phone calls, and it has a computer-automated voice you can actually understand.

“We’ve had about 75 people that have signed up (as of Sept. 8),” Cooper acknowledged. “People can also register at the public library, or through the school system.”

Commission vice-chair Tammy Lee inquired as to how to best get the word out to the citizens on registration.

Cooper stated that CenturyLink landline telephone numbers had already been programmed in the system, and that the system can notify citizens via text, phone call, and email.

“This is going to serve for more purposes than just emergencies for the citizens,” he said. “For the price, we can do a lot more with this because you want something quick and fast.”

Cooper said he’s working to secure the data from the old alert system to the new system, but that it would not hurt for citizens to go ahead and re-register their information by using the County website.

Cooper encouraged all of Bertie’s citizens to sign up for the system as soon as possible; to register visit the County’s website (http://www.co.bertie.nc.us) or call Bertie County Emergency Services at 252-794-5302.