Fresno police have started using an alert system called CodeRED to send emergency notifications through text message, phone calls, email, social media or a mobile app to residents.
CodeRED is a product of Florida-based Emergency Communications Network. The system, in use by more than 3,000 state and local agencies in the U.S. and Canada, can send near-instantaneous messages to recipients citywide or to specific geographic areas depending on the nature and scope of an emergency or general notification.
“We have not had anything in place (before) to allow for real-time emergency alerts or notifications,” Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.
Residents don’t necessarily have to register for alerts. In many cases, Dyer said, CodeRED’s national database may already have cell numbers in its system. But signing up for alerts with an address and phone number “is the best way to make sure we have the most current location information,” he said. “When we have an incident, we can narrowly notify people in a particular neighborhood, and people who are living in that area or even driving through that area will receive a notification.”
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“If we have an active shooter at a particular business, for example, we’ll want to notify people within a quarter-mile or half-mile radius,” Dyer said. “We can draw a circle or a square (on a map) around that location and send whatever alert we need to by text or voice or email, and we can also send out photos.”
Residents can register for alerts by email or to their home phones, “but most people are going to want their cellphone registered,” Dyer said. “People are mobile, and that cellphone is going to be with them all the time.” People can choose the types of alerts they want to receive and their preferred means of notification.
Authorized police personnel will be able to log into the system and create alert notifications from their smartphone or tablet without having to get to a computer to send a message out to residents. “We can launch alerts from anywhere at any time, and residents potentially impacted by weather and other time-sensitive events will receive them directly to their smartphones,” Dyer added. “This all happens within seconds.” The system also can send alerts via social media including Facebook and Twitter.
So far, the department has issued three alerts through CodeRED, Dyer said Tuesday: one for a suspected child abduction, and two for elderly missing adults.
Emergency situations for which the system can be used include evacuations, potentially dangerous suspects, missing persons, fire advisories, hazardous materials spills, active shooter incidents, shelter information or health advisories to boil drinking water. Among general notifications that can be sent are event cancellations or reminders, fraud or scam alerts, or Valley Crime Stoppers most-wanted suspects.
No money is coming from the city of Fresno’s municipal budget for the program. Valley Crime Stoppers is picking up the first-year cost for Fresno police to subscribe to the CodeRED system – about $15,000, Dyer said.
The CodeRED Mobile Alert app is available through both the Apple App Store and the Google Play store. Residents can sign up for CodeRED notifications by visiting the Fresno Police Department’s webpage at www.fresno.gov/police/community-and-neighborhood-resources/codered/ and following the registration steps. Details: Officer Ruben Barajas, 559-621-7000.