Town of Warwick's new phone-based alert system passes first test

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:12

    WARWICK - "The test went great. It was very successful." That's how town Supervisor Michael Sweeton views the results of the first test of the town's Hometown Alert System. It happened on April 19 at 6:30 p.m. Sweeton said the test was run out of the police department at the town hall. Two police dispatchers and the supervisor ran the test. They chose the area within a one-quarter mile radius of Jones Chemical. The alert system is a phone-based system with pre-programmed phone numbers. When an area is chosen to be alerted, those phone numbers included in that area are automatically dialed. A recorded message is heard with instructions. During this test, the message clearly stated this is a test of the emergency alert system. It directed the recipient to push "1" to acknowledge the call. Of the 168 phone numbers dialed, 137 people were reached, leaving 31 that were not answered. Of the 137 who were reached, 73 followed the instructions and pressed "1." The remaining 64 answered the call but did not respond. Sweeton said it took six minutes to call the 168 numbers. The test actually made 290 calls—the extra calls were redialed numbers when a busy signal was received. Several recipients called the police station to find out what was going on. Sweeton said he and the dispatchers are able to key in how many times to call a number when a busy signal is received. The police can print out the names and addresses of those who do not answer the alert calls. In a real emergency, Sweeton noted, the police can go to those addresses and notify them in person. The town uses the published phone numbers from Warwick Valley Telephone. Anyone wanting to include an unlisted phone number or a cell phone can go to the town's website — — print out a form, complete it, and send it to the town clerk's office. Or, just call the clerk for a copy of the request form. The alert system was installed last year sparked by concerns of the residents surrounding the Jones Chemical plant in the village. Jones Chemical paid for the installation of the system. This alert system can be used to notify the entire town or any size section of it. Sweeton said the village can use it to announce things such as hydrant flushings or weather emergencies. Sweeton plans to present the system to the school district too. The town will conduct additional tests of the system in the future. Like this one, though, future tests will be unannounced.