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CodeRED warning system growing in Yellowstone County

But officials want more usage
Posted at 10:09 AM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 12:09:53-04

After a fatal accident closed down Airport Road Thursday afternoon in Billings, an emergency alert was sent.

The system called CodeRED has been up and running in for about 3.5 years, but some residents still don't know about it.

About 15,000 people, or less than 10% of Yellowstone County, have CodeRED.

K.C. Williams, Yellowstone County Disaster & Emergency Services director, has sent about five alerts this year.

"Chief (Rich) St. John from the Billings PD asked that we send the CodeRED message to alert people to the fact that they had an accident," Williams said. "And asking people to find an alternative route because the road was closed."

Williams says the county started using the CodeRED alert system in January 2019 and that 15,000 people have signed up to receive alerts in more than one way.

"I would love to see that number be in the 50,000 or 60,000 range," Willams said.

For the crash on Highway 3, alerts went out on more than 40,000 phone calls, about 3,000 text messages and more than 1,000 emails.

"Those people that were at work, their business lines would have called," Williams said.

He says CodeRED can work with the location of a phone.

"I've been driving and been notified that I'm driving into a blizzard and then I had to make a decision," Williams said. "I was pulling a trailer. Do I want to pull over? Do I want to continue until it gets real bad? Do I want to try to make it through? Either way, I had the information necessary for me to make an educated decision."

And Williams says it can track an address far from home, and, in some cases, to put a little less stress on a parent.

"I've asked CodeRED to monitor the address where my daughter goes to college out of state," Williams said.

He says about half the counties in the state use CodeRED, which is free, and there are others with FEMA, the American Red Cross and the National Weather Service.

"And if you don't want to do CodeRED, get another warning system app that gives you some information," Williams said. "The more you know, the safer you are."

Williams says for a link to sign up for CodeRED, text "Yellowstone" to 99411.