Thurston County is offering a new community notification system that will send a text, email or voicemail about severe weather, major police and fire responses, flooding rivers and other emergencies.
About 5,000 people have signed up for it since it was officially launched Sept. 1, according to Sonya Kroese, an education and outreach program assistant with the county.
Anyone can subscribe to the service for free.
The county is paying about $30,000 a year for the service, which is through AlertSense, according to emergency management manager Sandy Eccker. Area cities are sharing the cost of an additional $23,160 a year so that the system can be countywide, she said.
Eccker said people can sign up for specific types of notifications, such as flood alerts for those who live in the Chehalis, Deschutes, Nisqually and Skookumchuck river basins. There’s also an option for subscribers to sign up for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration alerts and other services through the program.
Eccker recommends people who commute to work in Thurston County, and those who own property there but reside elsewhere, also join so they can stay up-to-date during emergencies. Officials can target messages for specific areas or neighborhoods.
“If we have a message that should go county-wide, like information about an ice storm, we can send it to phones across the area,” Eccker said. “If we have a situation like a hazardous chemical spill, we can send the message only to those in the impact zone.”
Yelm Police Chief Todd Stancil said he’s already used the system a few times internally, for city staff.
“We just used it Thursday for the ‘Drop, Cover and Hold’ statewide earthquake drill,” he said.
Stancil said he’s been creating maps for emergency notifications around Yelm’s schools.
“If we were to have a lockdown in one of our schools, the map has already been set around the school and who we want to notify,” Stancil said. “… It’s just a simple, efficient way to let people know what’s going on.”