Over a one week period in early December two massive phone outages occurred in Las Cruces, New Mexico and Reno, Nevada. Both of these outages took hours to restore, created major problems with emergency dispatch services, impacted thousands and resulted in numerous calls to 911 centers from residents. Just a month earlier, the CodeRED emergency notification system was used to proactively keep citizens informed during a similar situation in Iowa.
Over 7000 customers of Cox Communications’ phone service were affected by a massive outage. Concerned about these citizens, authorities from Iowa’s Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office and the Council Bluffs Fire Department made the decision to issue a CodeRED notification.
“The fire department phone lines went down, which made us immediately aware of the problem. Even though thousands of phone customers were affected, we knew that we had a significant amount of email addresses and cell phone numbers in our CodeRED database. Based on that, it was easy to make a quick decision to use the system,” said Fire Chief Alan Byers.
The CodeRED system notified residents via email, cell phones and working landlines that their modem phone lines were down. The message informed residents to use their cell phones or go to a fire station in case of emergency.
“We received so many positive comments from residents that didn’t know they were without phone service. We also heard from many in the business community that appreciated being notified of the phone outage.” Byers continued.
The successful use of CodeRED as an information sharing resource has started conversations amongst city staff. “Prior to the phone outage we used CodeRED for extreme emergencies only. The positive responses we’ve received opened our eyes to see other ways we can use the system,” Byers said.