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Connecting the dots in case of emergency
by Jason Collins
Jan 10, 2013 | 1177 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE — Robert Bridge is hoping to get at least half of the residents within the county to sign up to receive emergency alerts and messages.

County commissioners on Dec. 31 renewed their contract for another year with Blackboard Connect — a mass distribution system used by both city and county officials to broadcast messages to residents.

“I believe information is the best thing,” said Bridge, emergency management coordinator for both the city and county.

“The more information we can get into the hands of the citizens, the better we are.”

Currently, there are about 6,000 people on the system.

“I would be happy if I could get half the population of Bee County,” he said. “The more the merrier.

“The more people I can notify, the better job I can do of keeping people safe from a disaster type of situation.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Bridge sent out a message notifying residents of the county’s burn ban. The city last week sent a reminder through the system of the change in schedule for trash collection.

Bridge said that he intends to start using the system more as a way to warn residents of other events, including freezes.

“If we expect a hard freeze, I would think the citizens of Bee County may need or want to know that,” he said. “If it seems like it is important enough for lots of people to know, then I think we should utilize the system.”

Of course the system would also be used in the event of a disaster such as a chemical spill, explosion or hurricane. But, he said, at $7,000 a year for the system, he wants to ensure that county residents get their money’s worth out of the system.

“When people get these messages, I hope they keep it in the vein it was sent — to keep them safe,” Bridge said.

Signing up is simple, he said. There are links on both the county home page (www.co.bee.tx.us) as well as on the city’s home page (www.beevilletx.org) to the Blackboard connect sign-up.

Information asked for includes: name, address, phone numbers and email.

Bridge highlighted that the last box asks for an “SMS” phone number. This is where those wanting a text message notification should include the appropriate cell phone number. This can be the same as the number entered at the top of the page or a different number.

“This system is capable of calling a home number, sending an email and also sending out a text message,” Bridge said. “It will send out to all three if you have all three registered in the system.”

Those unsure if they are already in the system simply need to sign up to make sure.

“They can contact me if they want to, but it would be a whole lot simpler to just register on the system,” he said. “It will just update your address. It will not duplicate it.”

If the same phone number is entered multiple times in the system, the number will still only get one call. Multiple people also can sign up under the same address, which makes it convenient for spouses and children to all receive the messages.

“I am trying to access as many individuals in Bee County that will be able to provide us with their cell phone information so they can receive the notifications when these go out.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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