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Yellowstone County adopts new digital emergency alert system, and sirens are thing of the past

Posted at 5:38 PM, Apr 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:49:34-04

BILLINGS – Yellowstone County has launched CodeRED, its new high-speed emergency mass notification service.

Users can either download an app on their smartphone (Apple or Android), or enter contact information online to begin receiving notifications.

“If there is a public safety issue – an evacuation order, a flood, hazardous material spill, severe weather – those are very typical of the types of alarms that you’ll get,” said KC Williams, the Yellowstone County disaster and emergency services coordinator.

The technology will eventually replace the county’s sirens, which are becoming obsolete.

“The sirens don’t give you any information,” said Williams. “They only go off for severe weather events, but what if we have a hazardous material or flood or criminal activity or any of the other things we have no way of knowing?”

Williams said the sirens also do not alert the entire population, while the CodeRED system can deliver more information to more people in a timely manner.

“Our current system only covers 7/10 of a percent of the land area,” said Williams. “With CodeRED, we are able to reach well over 95% of the people.”

The CodeRED system is free to sign up for, but the service will cost the city and county about $25,000 a year to use.

Williams said that is still less expensive than the sirens, which can cost about $30,000 a piece to buy.

A test of the alert system, as well as the sirens, will be conducted on April 17.  Williams would not confirm that April 17 would be the last siren test for the county.

Once the test is complete, Williams said they will be able to get an idea of how many users are receiving the notifications.

To sign up for CodeRED alerts, click here.