The CodeRed Emergency Notification System used by the City of Oak Ridge can be a life-saving tool during an emergency, officials said, but many residents are not answering their phones or they are disconnecting before a pre-recorded message can begin.
This week, the Oak Ridge Fire Department reminded residents that use of the CodeRed Emergency Notification System is important during severe weather.
But a review of past CodeRed notifications found that many residents either did not answer their phone or they disconnected the call before the pre-recorded message could begin, a City of Oak Ridge press release said.
Here’s how CodeRed works, according to the city: If you have a land-line phone at your home or business through AT&T or Comcast, you will automatically receive a call from CodeRed alerting you of a tornado. If the city has a local emergency, the fire department will send an automated call to affected homes and business in order to provide information about the event. These messages can be a life-saving tool in an emergency, the press release said.
“One of the major issues that has come to light following the Sevier County wildfires is the importance of community notification of a pending emergency,” ORFD Chief Darryl Kerley said. “Oak Ridge is not able to use emergency warning sirens to alert the community of fire or tornadoes. The outside emergency alert sirens in Oak Ridge are for U.S. Department of Energy emergencies only, so the fire department subscribes to the CodeRed Emergency Notification System.”
If you do not have a land-line phone, or if you would like to be notified even when you are not at home, you can sign-up on the CodeRed system using a cell phone. By registering a mobile number to your home or business address, you will receive emergency notifications regardless of your physical location.
One issue identified by the Oak Ridge Fire Department following recent emergency notifications sent through CodeRed is that a large number of citizens are hanging up too soon. A system report shows more than 50 percent of the calls are being answered, but the person on the other end of the line disconnects prior to the message starting to play, the press release said.
“We think this is because the automated call is much like a telemarketer phone call,” Kerley said. “When you answer the phone and say hello, there is a slight delay before the emergency message is announced. We believe when people hear this delay, they automatically think it is a marketing call and they hang up before the message is played.”
CodeRed documents every call that is placed and reports that information to the fire department. The system logs whether the call was answered, how many seconds the resident listened to the call, and whether the message went to voicemail. The system will report a status of “Operator Interrupted” if someone answers the call, but hangs up before the notification is delivered.
“We understand that everyone gets more telemarketing calls than they want and these calls can be very aggravating,” Kerley said. “However, the CodeRed Emergency Notification System operates just like the automated telemarketing systems where a computer is actually dialing your number and delivering the emergency message. The system can dial more than 10,000 phone numbers in a matter of minutes, which makes it a great way to notify citizens of an emergency, but the citizen has to answer the phone in order to receive the emergency message.”
Here are two things you can do to ensure you receive an emergency notification:
- Check the caller ID: The CodeRed notification call should be from (865) 425-3500, which is the City of Oak Ridge.
- Stay on the line: If you do not have caller ID, or even if you do not recognize the number, stay on the line until you hear the message begin so you’ll find out if it’s an emergency notification.
Community members are encouraged to sign up for the CodeRed alerts if they have not already done so, the press release said.
“The process is simple, just visit the Oak Ridge Fire Department webpage for a link,” the release said.
For more information, contact the Oak Ridge Fire Department at (865) 425-3520.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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