EAST PEORIA — Residents and business people in East Peoria will soon be able to receive live emergency warnings and alerts to a spot they are almost certain to see and never very far from:
"It's literally the fastest and best way to get information to people," said Ryan Beck, assistant fire chief of the East Peoria Fire Department.
The city council unanimously approved a $7,000 annual contract with the Red Alert warning system at its regular meeting this week. A second reading will be voted on at the May 15 council meeting, making the vote official. The service is expected to be operational later this summer. It is already available in Peoria, Peoria County, Washington, and other central Illinois communities, Beck said.
East Peoria lost its reverse-911 capabilities to a lightning strike more than 10 years ago, and never got it fixed.
"It got to be too much money to replace an outdated system, Beck said."Code Red answers that problem for us."
The city currently has a text messaging system that allows it to interact, on a limited basis, with residents and businesses. Red Alert takes interaction to a new level.
Code Red starts with a database of all landline phone numbers in the city and a limited number of cellphone numbers. Beyond that, users can download a phone app, available on Android and Apple platforms, that connect them to the Red Alert database. Connection enables them to receive messages from the police, fire, and public works departments, as well as from the city of East Peoria. Information could be anything from a boil order delivered directly to households that need to be notified to an alert of an active shooter delivered to directly to people in the vicinity of the incident.
In other words, Code Red knows where you are.
The service will deliver a recorded message, leave a voice mail or text message or contact users through social media like Facebook or Twitter, Beck said. Messages will be sent by authorized personnel in the fire, police and public works departments and city offices.
"Since it narrows who receives the alerts to people directly effected by the warning, it sort of eliminates the 'cry wolf' syndrome where people tend to ignore the messages because so many aren't relevant," Beck said.
Users can download the app now and receive alerts from neighboring systems, but won't be able to interact with East Peoria until the system is activated later this summer.
The service can be fully customized for personal use, depending on the customers' own parameters. People can also opt out of the service.
"The contract we're getting is for full access, although there is a cheaper version available," Beck said. "We'll reevaluate in a year and see what is the best value for the city."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.