Suwanee to launch CodeRED alert service

SUWANEE -- A test call on Monday to Suwanee residents will roll out the city's new emergency notification system.

The service will make a call to Suwanee phone numbers collected through online sign-ups and using existing public phone databases, mostly to landline numbers, according to a city news release. City officials selected the system from the company CodeRED, after they discussed tornado sirens and other notification methods.

Residents will be required to opt-in for general and weather notifications and opt-out of emergency notifications.

There are three categories in the system: emergency weather, emergency situations, such as a gas leak or terrorism threat and general notification about events or non-emergency information.

The bonus to the service, officials have said, is residents could be notified with a message that may only impact their neighborhood.

"This is a service that our citizens have requested," city manager Marty Allen said. "We're pleased to be able to provide it in a manner that we believe is effective and cost efficient."

Discussions about emergency alert systems and companies began in March after severe storms swept through the area. But they were augmented in April when a man, who later died, was accused of killing his girlfriend and shooting a neighbor in Auburn, then fleeing to a home on Scales Road in Suwanee.

That kind of situation makes an alert system that can circle a geographic area in which to notify residents appealing to city officials.

Allen, Police Chief Mike Jones and Deputy Chief Janet Moon selected CodeRED, with an annual cost for the city of about $10,000, Allen said.

One of CodeRED's products is an emergency notification system that contacts residents by telephone, text message or email during emergencies.

"If we had this system at that time, we could have geographically created a circle that said everybody in here gets a specific message," Allen said of the Scales Road incident. "The benefit of it is it's similar to insurance. You hope you never have to use it, but if you have it, you're happy that you have it."

A CodeRED system was used earlier this year after a chemical plant incident near Dalton. A similar system is in place around Rome. A message on CodeRED's web site said the company has grown to include institutions of high education and utility companies. Allen said it's used at schools like Virginia Tech following on-campus emergencies.

A bonus to the system would be an opt-in element that could inform residents by text message or email of an upcoming concert.