May 3, 2011
KINGSPORT – Kingsport Public Works officials have entered a contract with CodeRED Emergency Notification System to provide utility customers with updates on service schedule changes and service interruptions.
CodeRED is a high speed automated phone system capable of delivering up to 60,000 calls per hour. Operated via secured Internet website, alert messages can be authorized from any location and delivered directly to citizens via the telephone. “We saw a need to be able to reach the citizenry and ratepayers for various public works issues,” Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds said Tuesday. “One example that comes to mind is whenever we adjust garbage the collection schedule for a holiday week. Ensuring that our citizens get this information is a daunting task. Even if we use all of our traditional methods, getting the information to 100 percent of our customers is very difficult. So we evaluated what method of communication could touch the most people.”
Designed to be innocuous, non-emergency notifications will be phoned out during daytime hours. The system can also be used for notifying the public of traffic disruptions, water outages or other disruptions of city services.
Currently, CodeRED calls are targeted by Internet mapping, which means that a few customers in outlying areas of the City might be missed.
To ensure your phone number is included in the Kingsport CodeRED database, please call 229-9451. In particular, individuals with unlisted phone numbers, those who have changed their phone number or address within the last year, or who use a cellular phone as their primary home phone, should call to register. Cell phones or unlisted numbers will be held solely for contact purposes, and will not be sold or redistributed.
“With public participation, over time, updated phone listings will help us improve our targeting,” McReynolds said. “We looked at many possible systems, but in our investigations, we have found that telephone calls are the most economical and effective mass communication tool we can find.”
The first Kingsport CodeRED message was delivered Monday prior to the Christmas holiday informing citizens of the revised holiday garbage collection schedule.
“This system delivers a higher level of service to our citizens,” McReynolds said. “It increases understanding of our garbage system operations, but also lets folks know about scheduled water outages, when service might be restored in the case of unscheduled outages, or inform our residents of any potential emergency situations.”
The Kingsport contract provides 50,000 minutes of calls. Monday’s city-wide garbage schedule announcement only consumed 4,000 minutes.
“We certainly intend to limit the volume of these messages, but unlike telemarketing calls, they do provide useful information to our residents,” McReynolds said. “We will certainly be evaluating possibilities for wider usage of the system.”
McReynolds said the system, at an annual service cost of $15,000, is far more efficient than other systems now on hand at the city, which are restricted by limited staff and phone lines.
“If you figure the average person could make one call and leave one message every 90 seconds or so, it would take a ton of staff time just to cover a fraction of what this system can do in just a few minutes,” McReynolds said.