The City Council voted Tuesday evening to enter a contract with Blackboard Connect for the installation of an emergency preparedness alert system that should be able to reach every home and cellular phone in the city.
David Morgan, city and county emergency management coordinator, told the council that after studying four of the most reputable mass alert companies in the nation, he was ready to recommend Blackboard Connect.
Morgan said the city would have to sign on for an annual agreement with the company. No money would be required up front and the city would be billed according to the number of “addresses” to which the system connects.
The coordinator said Blackboard had already conducted a study of the number of addresses and had identified 4,137 locations within the city. The company will bill the city $1.91 a year for each address for a total of $7,901.67.
Morgan said the number of addresses could increase in the future once people who do not have home phones realize the value of the system and sign on for the service.
City Manager Tom Ginter told council members that the city had budgeted $10,000 for the service this fiscal year.
Each address is allowed to have seven phone numbers so that each household member with a cellular phone can be connected to the service, Morgan told the council.
Morgan said the service will be for city residents at this time because Bee County commissioners had not opted to place the matter on their agenda.
The system is capable of making 250,000 calls a minute, immediately notifying all city residents of an emergency situation. City authorities can tell residents the exact location of an emergency, the nature of the emergency and make recommendations on how they should deal with the situation.
That would include evacuation instructions, Morgan said.
“This is our system,” Morgan told the council. “We can do anything with it.”
The coordinator said the city could notify residents of water or utility outages, tell residents how long an outage is expected to exist, notify residents of the fact that they have outstanding municipal court warrants and alert residents to storm or high water concerns.
City Ordinance Compliance Officer and Assistant Fire Chief Lanny Holland told the council that the system is “limited only by your imagination.”
“I’m ready to act on it,” said Mayor Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez. “We need to get this as fast as we can.”
The motion passed unanimously.