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New Emergency Alert System Could Come to Borough

Fire official said Everbridge program was used by the county during Hurricane Sandy.

The Chatham Borough Council was blown away by the benefits of the Everbridge notification system as presented by Steve Williams of the Chatham Borough Fire Department.

Everbridge is "a very, very robust, technically advanced program," Williams said, "separate and distinct" from Nixle. Under Everbridge, residents who sign up for alerts can opt to receive notifications via a reverse-911 call to their landline or cellular phone, (similar to Honeywell, which the School District of the Chathams uses), emails, texts, alerts on a tablet or any combination of the above.

"People can manage their options," Williams said, and choose what they want. Additionally, certified officials who learn to use the program can send messages from a tablet or cell phone rather than needing a computer.

Another benefit to the borough, Williams said, is that Morris County has already signed a contract with Everbridge, and therefore the borough can use the system without cost.

Councilman Vicki Fife asked how Everbridge worked if residents did not sign up for the service.

"With Twitter, we were at the Farmers Market for weeks trying to get people to sign up," Fife said. During Hurricane Sandy the borough sent out regular updates via Twitter and the borough website, but residents said later they did not receive the updates because they could not use their computers or charge their Smartphones.

Williams said it would be ideal for everyone in the borough to sign up for Everbridge and receive updates in the way most convenient for them. If the borough decides to use Everbridge, he said, "we're going to need the local channel and the media" to spread the word.

Failing that, "there is a reverse-911 component" which uses county records and the White Pages to contact residents at home.

Police Chief Philip J. Crosson said the system "also allows us to put out non-emergent messages," such as alerting residents of where warming centers will be located before a storm hits.

If the council approves use of Everbridge, Williams said, the borough could be ready to use it late February or early March.

"I'm sold on this," Council President Len Resto said, and other councilmen expressed similar enthusiasm at the system.

Various emergency responders will go through training for the system, and the borough can decide whether to utilize it or not as their needs demand.

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