Emergency notification, country style

I grew up in a rural community where almost no one lived within shouting distance of their nearest neighbors. In those days, when there was an emergency and the volunteer fire department was needed, a siren was sounded at the general store and a phone tree was started, ringing up each home to sound the alert. Since the community was not a quiet one, with the tractors running and animals carrying on most of the day, the siren was often heard only by the few who lived near the fire station. And since many of the families had multiple party lines, the people working the phone tree regularly had a hard time getting the message out by phone. Imagine the havoc that would ensue if a tornado were imminent.

Things have changed everywhere, even in that small community. The party lines are gone and more and more people have cell phones. The old siren still sounds off to rouse responders when needed, but the community has kicked that up a notch with an automated notification system. Since so many people, including farmers, have smartphones these days, an automated notification system makes sense. Now a single emergency alert can be sent to any number of residents at once, and can be delivered as a phone message, text message or even via email. Yes, the siren still sounds, but now it acts more as a reminder to check your messages right away and see if your help is needed.

I’m glad to see that other rural communities are following the same path, like this one in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, related by the Fergus Falls Journal. It’s a smart move.