TRENTON, Ga. -- Emergency notification has come a long way since the days of air-raid style sirens blaring a warning to people in the path of danger, a Dade County Emergency Services leader says.
A new warning system has the ability to alert virtually everyone with a telephone in Dade County to weather situations, missing persons or school emergencies.
Emergency Services Director Alex Case said "CodeRED," a service provided through Emergency Communications Network Inc., gives officials immediate communication with individual Dade residents without tying up county networks or equipment.
Trenton resident Bethany Sewell works out of town while her daughter attends second grade at Dade Elementary School and is comforted by the network's long reach.
"I think it's a great idea, especially for parents like me who work in Chattanooga," Mrs. Sewell said.
A Dade-based notification regarding schools "would be the only way I would get an alert," she said. "I don't think we've had too many problems, like snow, since she's been in school. But you never know."
CodeRED "lets people know if we have a fuel spill, a hazardous spill, a missing child, a missing Alzheimer's patient, school closings," Mr. Case said. "If we have a missing child ... we can do a five- or six-mile radius real quick and call those numbers in that area."
CodeRED's weather warning automatically calls residents with an audio message about the latest storm warning or report, he said.
"Most everybody that has a white-page listing in the phone book ... has been built in the database by the five ZIP codes in Dade County," he said. "We've got about 5,300 clients on it now and, starting Jan. 4, we're going to start doing the (phone number) validation."
People who sign up for the free service will be able to identify an incoming call from the service on their caller ID. The resident's phone will display "Emergency Communication Network" or "866-419-5000" for a CodeRED non-weather call or the network's name or the number "800-566-9780" for weather alerts, according to officials.
Anyone who's unsure whether they're in the database or those who have unlisted numbers should check links on the Dade County Schools, Dade County Sheriff's Department or Discover Dade Web sites to update their information.
Emergency Services and the school system are splitting the costs of running the program, with Emergency Services paying 75 percent of the $11,250 annual payment after the first-year introductory charge of $9,850. The school system will pay the remainder.
School Superintendent Patty Priest said CodeRED probably will get its first tests with coming winter weather. She noted that it also could become important for schools in the event of a hazardous material spill on nearby Interstate 59.
"We've got two schools that are very close to Interstate 59," she said. "If there was a spill on the interstate -- and there has been a spill before -- that would certainly help us with our response."
Mrs. Sewell said she "hadn't thought of that," and she noted "the freeway runs right next to where we drop them off in the morning" at Dade Elementary.
HOW IT WORKS
The CodeRED system is capable of dialing every phone in Dade County within a few minutes, delivering a prerecorded message describing the situation in the affected area. If the call is missed, the resident simply can check their messages or call the number to hear the last notification delivered.
To make sure you're included in the CodeRED telephone number database, follow the links on Web sites for the Dade County Sheriff's Department at www.dadesheriff.com, the school system at www.dadecountyschools.org, or Discover Dade at www.discoverdade.com.