City of New Haven plans first test of a new phone emergency notification system

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The City of New Haven plans to run its first test of a new phone emergency notification system on March 13. The test is scheduled to coincide with the statewide tornado drill, set for 1:30 p.m. that afternoon.

The City system will call all phone numbers in the City’s utility billing database. The system is similar to those used by local school districts to inform parents of school closings.

The City intends to use the system for severe weather warnings and other emergencies. The City plans to use the system in conjunction with its outdoor siren warning system.

In general, calls will be made in the event of a severe thunderstorm warning and / or tornado warning for the New Haven area. The City will use National Weather Service warnings and other weather sources in determining when to activate the system.

City Administrator Steve Roth said the City wants to be as precise as it can in issuing warnings. “If we have info that New Haven is in the path of a severe storm, we’ll activate the system,” he said. “If it’s a situation where a warning has been issued for a wider area and it doesn’t look like New Haven is in the direct path, we’ll probably lay off.”

Brad Maune is the City’s Emergency Management Director and is responsible for determining when to activate the system. Maune said the City will err on the side of caution with all storms, but especially tornados.

“If there’s a tornado anywhere near us, we’ll send a message,” he said. “We don’t want to mess around with tornadoes.”

Recent tornado outbreaks in the Midwest and South are a reminder of how serious and deadly these storms can be.

“We’re hoping that the phone system will give people the warning they need to protect property and possibly even save lives,” Maune said.

Both Maune and Roth said the City is sensitive to the disruption a phone call may cause, especially one during the overnight hours. For that reason they want to be as sure as possible that the severe threat is real.

“We get the best information we can from the Weather Service and different weather radars,” Roth said. “We don’t want to use the system unless there is a genuine threat.” Residents who don’t want to be called can “opt-out” of the system. A form is included in the City’s March utility billing and is also available at City Hall.

Residents may also access the system online and add numbers to their account. In this way a family can include all cell phones, including children’s, and also add email addresses. People can sign-up online or can provide information to the City which will include it in the database.

Residents who don’t have a utility account can also sign-up online or come to City Hall. The system is available to all City residents.

“It’s a new system so no doubt there will be a bug or two,” Roth said. “The test on March 13 will give us an idea how well it is working and if there are any problems we need to address.”

Assuming the test goes well on March 13, the City plans to beginning using the system for real-time alerts soon after.

To sign-up online click here.

For more information click here or visit the city's webiste:  http://newhavenmo.org/