Iowa Senate approves a bill to make “Reverse 911” systems available statewide

Cell phone problems Hampton, IA

When you find yourself in an emergency situation, it’s the first thing you’ve been told to do since you were a child; call 911 for help.

But what if law enforcement needs to let you know about an emergency?

That’s where emergency messaging systems come into play.

Right now 53 of Iowa’s 99 counties have some type of “reverse 911” system in place.

But state lawmakers are hoping that number grows so all counties have this technology.

A great example of how efficient these emergency messaging systems really are, happened just one week ago.

That’s when an entire town of roughly 2,200 people needed to be evacuated.

County officials are telling me how using their system helped in that process.

“It really proved itself last week,” says Worth County IT Director Joel Rohne.

Last year, WorthCounty officials made the call to purchase an emergency alert system called Worth Alerts.

The system has only been in place for about 6 months, but came in handy 7 days ago when Northwood needed to be evacuated because of a chemical fire at an Ag facility.

The Worth Alert system sent 1,300 emergency messages in about 2 minutes. County officials say it played a key role in the success of the evacuation.

“The biggest thing for us is if we didn’t have this how would we have gotten the word out so quickly and the evacuation started so soon so I thin kit more than paid for itself with just this incident we had last week,” says Rohne.

Law enforcement still went door to door during the evacuation to make sure everyone was aware of the situation.

“It’s not just one size fits all it can bend to suit everybody’s needs.”

Heather Hahn is the lead dispatcher for Cerro GordoCounty, which also has an emergency messaging system in place: Code Red.

She says getting these systems in every county will be vital in keeping communities safe.

“With technology these days it’s just going to go, the way things are going it’s just endless in the possibilities that could come with text messages and even code red could go with text messaging, if you’re hearing impaired they can give you a text message,” she adds.

People with land lines are most likely already a part of their county’s system, but if you only use a mobile phone or prefer e-mail, you have to sign up for alerts.

“The more people that we can get into this system with the correct information I think it will make the process that much more smoother,” adds Rohne.

If you want to sign up for the emergency alerts you can find out how to do so on your county’s website.

Both Heather and Joel say with the number of people with landlines dwindling, it’s important folks get signed up for these alerts in case there are any future emergencies.

The bill to get all 99 counties equipped with these systems has passed in the Iowa senate.

It now has to be considered by the Iowa House and signed by the governor before it becomes law.

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