Mount Pleasant, Union Township look into CodeRED emergency alert system
Mount Pleasant city commissioners vocalized their support for the possibility of partnering with the county on a new emergency alert system Monday, although they made no official financial commitment.
Isabella County wants to switch emergency alert systems from CityWatch to CodeRED, a high-speed notification system to alert which will alert county members of emergencies and advisories via cell phone, and would like to split the cost with local entities. A work session was held to explain the potential cost for the city, and examine what has been allotted in the 2013 proposed budget.
Mount Pleasant fire chief Greg Walterhouse explained in his presentation that Mount Pleasant’s annual cost for the new system would be between $5,915 and $12,071.
“This is predicated on how many other townships and entities participate,” Walterhouse said. “Union Township and Isabella County have made a commitment already. Your worst case scenario would be around $12,000.”
Wednesday evening, the Charter Township of Union Board of Trustees also approved to inquire more information on CodeRED.
Township manager Brian Smith said the details are currently being sorted out, but Union Township will likely join the call service, costing less than $3,000 per year.
The board initially carried a motion on July 11 to look further into utilizing the system, pending costs.
Trustee Tim Lannen said the system, which has been used in Ann Arbor for eight years, would send out free emergency alert messages, but service messages, such as boil water advisories, would dip into the overall allotted fee.
Smith said the service would be shared among numerous counties and the number of service messages would be shared as well. There would not be a distinction of charges based on how many messages each county sends out.
However, once over the given message allotment, each county would have to pay per day each time they wanted to send out a service message, Smith said.
The Board questioned how the overall fees would be split, which Smith said is one of the details being sorted out.
“Considering how our world has changed, this makes sense,” he said. “Having alerts on my cell phone would be nice.”
CityWatch has been used in the city for a number of years, Walterhouse said, but after the 3.0 upgrade about two years ago, very serious problems began occurring with the system.
CodeRED allows an unlimited number of emergency calls with the possibility of 1,000 calls per minute being sent out. Comparatively, CityWatch places 1,200 calls an hour.
Those calls are messages recorded by the county or the city, Walterhouse said. Weather alerts for tornadoes, floods and severe storms are sent out instantaneously through CodeRED’s connection with the National Weather Service.
The new system also provides 87,500 minutes for non-emergency calls, such as parade routes and road closures, Walterhouse said.
Walterhouse also discussed the possibility of ceasing maintenance or eliminating sirens that are used throughout the area for emergency alerts.
“There was talk earlier this year of giving (sirens) to the cities and townships for maintenance, but the county did come up with some money. How long they will continue to maintain those I don’t know,” Walterhouse said.
City Manager Kathie Grinzinger said the city has put aside $12,000 in the proposed budget to cover the city’s share of the new alert system.
“We’ve been following this analysis for quite some time; we’ve known about the troubles with citywatch and based on our recommendation that there should be a dependable and reliable emergency notification plan, we wanted to make sure there was room to cover the annual subscription cost,” Grinzinger said.
Commissioner Sharon Tilmann said she would fully support the city contributing to the new alert system.
“I don’t want to sound like a spendthrift, but frankly, whether it’s $5,000 or $12,000, I think we owe it to the people to utilize the technology and provide them with extra safety,” she said. “CityWatch is a mess.”
Every city commissioner agreed to relay their unofficial support for CodeRED to the county.
The city will make an official decision on funding CodeRED in the coming months as commissioners balance the 2013 city budget.
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