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Q: I’ll bet the numbers jump the day you really do have a huge emergency and people realize they need to be plugged in.
A: Perhaps so. But we’re trying to get the word out — an item in our county newspaper the other day yielded a few dozen responses, which was great.
Q: Speaking of emergencies, the New Prague school shooting hoax is reputed to have been a day when some lessons were learned. Local officials spoke of using CodeRED at a debriefing later for civic leaders from across the county, but you haven’t mentioned it.
A: New Prague is one of those oddities because part of it is not in our county and technically not part of our system. But we should be able reach most or all people in town. We didn’t do a CodeRED in that situation; it was terminology the schools used.
A positive that came out of that was getting a conversation going about how to be consistent about this. They had their own system, and another thing that came out was that … the most current information is with the schools; you must register with the school. Some people don’t want to get too many phone calls …
Could we have used the county system? Yes, but the incident was resolved quickly. The Boston Marathon went on for hours [between scares about further incidents elsewhere in the city and follow-up needs]. If New Prague had been a real incident, with hostages, etc., I would have said, “Let’s do CodeRED at least around the school and maybe the entire city.” But it was over relatively quickly.
Q: Another notable moment this past winter was an Amber Alert that came out. A Star Tribune team was with a group of Scott County and Three Rivers parks staff and a pair of citizens and it seemed all their phones were going crazy at the same moment.
A: Yes, and that speaks to the parallel systems that are out there. We didn’t have anything to do with it. It was a commercial mobile alert on smartphones that is geography based: FEMA started it, an “integrated public alert warning system.”
Q: Bottom line, it’s good news that you haven’t had to use CodeRED much.
A: And frankly I don’t anticipate there will be a lot of use: I hope it’s more weather than emergency stuff.
Having said that, we have used it internally for groups like weather spotters, sheriff’s reserves, we could use it for SWAT teams, and cities could be using it for internal groups. Some agencies in other places have used it for overtime shifts for instance: The first two responders get overtime. “Instead of a calling tree, use CodeRED.” And that will grow with time.
My main message to people is, please do sign up if you haven’t. (There’s a link on the county home page, www.co.scott.mn.us, or call 952-445-7750.)
David Peterson • 952-746-3285