Emergency management pushing alert registration

Published 6:38 pm Friday, September 2, 2016

As Tropical Storm Hermine barrels up the East Coast, Beaufort County Emergency Management is keeping the public informed by all means possible — including through its alert system, Hyper-Reach.

The agency is stressing the importance of registering with the program, not only because residents can stay informed, but because emergency management plans to do a test of the system — an “all call” —  on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.

“It’s a countywide call, which means it will call every residential landline and every cellphone that’s been registered,” said Emergency Service Specialist Lisa Respess Williams.

Emergency Management signed on to the Hyper-Reach service in 2013. It allows the county to send out alerts residents really need to know about: power outages, boil water alerts, mandatory evacuations, tornado watches and more. Some of the alerts are simply notification of an inconvenience such as a planned electricity outage due to line work in the area; others could be a matter of life and death, like flooding evacuations and notification that a shelter has opened during a hurricane, according to Williams.

While landlines are automatically registered in the system, cellphones are not, which means the owner of a cellphone must go online to sign up of his own will.

“We send out a lot of county and community information that particularly your cellphone users are not going to get if they’re not registered,” Williams said.

However, she added that all residents should register cellphones, even if they have a landline, simply so they can get the alert as it comes out.

“People who have a landline are going to automatically get it, but, even then, if you work during the day, and get home after 5 p.m., that’s when you’re going to get that message,” Williams said.

She said Hyper-Reach has proven invaluable to in both emergency and non-emergency situations, from road closures to the sudden warning that preceded a tornado that ripped through Beaufort County in April 2014, causing massive destruction to everything in its path.

“When we had the tornadoes, I had a lot of people tell me they got the notification,” Williams said.

The service is that exact, she said: a boil-water alert will only go out to residents on streets in the affected area; a tornado warning only goes out to those in its path.

When the system is tested for the first time on Sept. 13, it will give Williams hard data about how many people still have landlines in the county, as well as how many people Beaufort County Management is not reaching with its Hyper-Reach alerts.

“Landlines are going away and people are not registering their cellphones,” Williams said. “It’s a real concern for me.”

“The main thing I want to get across in all of this is that this is a test,” Williams said. “So everybody knows that they’re going to get this call on the 13th, at 7 p.m., and if their cellphone does not ring, they’re not registered.”

Williams said the system will make two call attempts, so if a registered user is on the phone when that call comes in, it will wait and call back five minutes later.

To sign up for Hyper-Reach, visit https://secure.hyper-reach.com/comsignupw.jsp?id=40487.