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North Adams Demonstrates New Alert System
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
11:25PM / Tuesday, September 11, 2012
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The registration is easy: fill in your name and address; your landline and/or cell phone number and carrier; if you want phone, email and text alerts, and register with a password. Note that the page reloads as you enter information.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — City residents were given an overview of the new CodeRED alert system at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The communications system allows the Department of Pubic Safety to swiftly contact anyone who has signed up for the system via landline, cell phone, email and text. It will replace the current Reverse-911 that officials say is outdated.

"I think it's a really good tool and it gives you tremendous flexibility on how you receive your messages," said Mayor Richard Alcombright. "It's very powerful, it's very dynamic."

The city had begun looking at upgrading its alert system after Tropical Storm Irene last year, as officials struggled to keep residents up to date and alert them of evacuations, flooding and road closures.

Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco said the system can prepare and send an alert to all the 6,000 or so numbers in the database in about 15 minutes.

That's warp speed compared to the Reverse-911, which takes a half-hour or more to set up and two to 2 1/2 days to dial every number.

"This is a much easier to operate system," said Morocco, as he ran through a demonstration of how to sign up for the alert system's various options.

The new system will cost about $4,000 to $5,000 more a year to operate but doesn't come with the startup costs of the older system, which was some $31,000 more than a decade ago.

CodeRED can send alerts as well as community notifications to the entire city or to specific areas, down to street addresses. It can also send updates frequently, a factor that the mayor said would have been handy during Irene.

Anyone with a CodeRED app on their cell phone can also pick up alerts from within 10 miles of communities using it.

The city's information systems manager Kathy Wall said that capability was one of the aspects that led to its adoption over two other systems considered. Pittsfield, Greenfield and nearby Columbia County, N.Y., have also instituted the Code Red system, she said.

Register for CodeRed: Online or by downloading a registration form here or through the city's website.
You will receive calls from these numbers:
• 866-419-5000 for emergency notifications
• 855-969-4636 for general notifications
The system will be tested on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m.

You can sign up for the system here or on the city's website. Name, address and phone number are required.

Those with a listed landline through Verizon Communications should already be in the database, but Morocco cautioned that that should not be assumed and encouraged residents to register.

"You cannot opt out of the emergency broadcast," he said. "You can opt out of the community service announcements."

Community announcements may deal with parking situations, meeting notices or other events.

The fee is based on the number of those registered so most non-North Adams numbers will be purged regularly.

However, anyone in Clarksburg or Williamstown who is on the city's water system should register; those who work in North Adams can sign up by using their cell phone and the address of their place of work.

Morocco assured the councilors that no numbers or addresses would be sold.

Those who do not have a computer can go to the North Adams Public Library and the Mary Spitzer Center for help in registering, or call the commissioner's office at 413-662-3102 between 8 and 4:30 weekdays to have the information taken by phone.

In other business, the council:

• Filed a report by Councilor Alan Marden on the minutes for the last week's Finance Committee meeting. Councilor John Barrett III said he wanted to read the minutes and possibly suggest additions that he did not think were included.

The meeting had been held to discuss the budgeting process. Barrett had urged the committee to change the procedure to have the mayor submit the budget as an order, saying the council should have the document to review and avoid what he said were thousands of dollars in errors.

The committee members had opted to stay with the current process, which they said gave them greater input into the budget's formation. (The committee had spent a half-dozen meetings reviewing the budget.) They did, however, vote to recommend that the compensation plan be submitted as early as possible for review.

Marden said he planned to ask the council to refer the fiscal 2013 budget back to the committee to review, based on Barrett's budgeting questions.

• Approved a taxi operation license for Tunnel City Taxis, Guy Cariddi owner, and licenses for a 2003 Ford Windstar, a 2004 red Ford Free Star and a 2000 white Jeep Cherokee; and taxi driving licenses for Cariddi, Theresa Delratez of Bracewell Avenue, Rebecca Martin of Rand Street, Robert Whitney Jr. of East Hoosac Street, Adams, Tanya Record of Liberty Street, Tondra L. Lemieux of River Road, Clarksburg, and Sherry LaBonte of State Road.

• Endorsed a proclamation from the mayor on National Hunger Month in September. Barrett and Councilor Jennifer Breen said they would donate their $40 a month expenses stipend to the local food pantry.

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