Emergency goes cutting edge with Hyper-ReachPublished 7:48pm Saturday, August 24, 2013
Hurricanes, tornados, ice storms — when they’re in the forecast, the logical place to turn for guidance is Beaufort County Emergency Services. But a new system set to launch will make it much easier for Emergency Services to relay potentially life-saving information to county residents. All residents have to do is get with the program called Hyper-Reach, according to Emergency Services Director John Pack.
“It’s going to allow us the flexibility to take of our citizens better,” Pack said.
The new system allows Pack to send out emergency messages from a variety of devices, including his cellphone, to warn residents of an emergency within the geographical area it stands to affect, he said.
For example, if a tornado tracks from Blounts Creek to Bath to Pantego, the emergency notification will go out only to residents in those areas via phone call, email or text. Others outside the targeted area won’t be bothered with a notification that won’t affect them, Pack said.
That’s why it’s important residents register with the system, Pack noted. All existing land lines in Beaufort County are already logged into the system — it’s those who only have cell phones that aren’t, because Hyper-Reach must like an address to a phone number. With so many people opting for cellphones and getting rid of their land lines, it requires Pack to appeal to the public to enroll in the system.
“I need them to log on, sign up and build the database with the cellphones,” Pack said. “This is the way Beaufort County is attempting to save lives — by keeping them (residents) aware of ever-changing weather conditions and manmade conditions. That is Beaufort County’s obligation — to keep its citizens aware of these issues. That’s the intent of this system.”
Pack said a core group of people will be able to launch messages — tornado, ice, hurricane and other severe weather warnings, evacuation notices, haz-mat accidents, even law enforcement will be able to launch Amber Alerts through the system — and Pack’s goal is to be able to reach 70 percent of people with any type of phone in the county within 20 minutes or less.
By registering with the system, Beaufort County residents and county personnel are also getting more “bang for their buck,” according to Pack.
Through Hyper-Reach, Pack can get really specific with his alerts, targeting residents down to one city block if need be. And Hyper-Reach’s integration with FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), which is hooked into the National Weather Service, means those registered in Beaufort County can receive emergency messages on their cellphones wherever they happen to be in the U.S. If a cell tower is sending out a locally issued emergency message, any cellphone registered with Hyper-Reach within range will receive it.
“I want to know if I’m driving into a place with a tornado warning — I think I’d like to know that,” Pack laughed.
Pack said Beaufort County is only the fourth county in North Carolina to employ the cutting edge system. Right now, he’s working with senior centers, special needs centers and libraries to facilitate enrollment in the program.
Pack said no one is required to register with Hyper-Reach, but stressed the importance of his department being proactive in emergency situations, making sure the public is informed.
“If they don’t want to sign up, they don’t have to,” Pack said. “But what we’re doing is being preventative with life, health and safety issues that affect everyday life.”
To register for Beaufort County’s Hyper-Reach system, visit http://www.hyper-reach.com/ncbeaufortsignup.html or call Beaufort County Emergency Management at 252-946-2046.