County urges residents and businesses to register with NotifyJoCo.org

When law enforcement officials put Boston into a lockdown last week when searching for the second marathon bombing suspect, residents were notified by a procedure similar to what the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department put into place last month.

Notify JoCo is a program in which citizens of Johnson County can voluntarily register various contact information so they can be notified in cases of emergency and some non-emergency events (festivals and park closings for example) that take place. When there is an event requiring a message to be sent, authorized county and city officials will identify the affected areas and send out the message through NotifyJoCo via phone, e-mail or text message. The system has the ability to send out a minimum of 100,000 notifications per hour, allowing NotifyJoCo to reach citizens immediately in emergency situations.

“It’s a mass notification system that we can send out to residents in the county or to residents in a specific jurisdiction,” said Tom Erickson, Master Deputy and PIO for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. “We can even narrow it down to a specific area within a jurisdiction.”

When residents register their contact information, Erickson said they can choose to be notified several different ways.

“While we have 411 data, which is landline data, more and more people are switching to cell phones and no longer have landline phones at home,” Erickson said. “With Notify JoCo, we’re encouraging everybody to go online and signup and put how they would like to be notified.”

He said residents and businesses registering with NotifyJoCo can customize their alert preferences to receive time-sensitive messages at home, work, on cellphones, by text or email directly from the county, city, and participating public utilities.

“Let’s say an emergency happens during Old Settlers,” Erickson said. “We have the ability to send a message to just that area, just the city of Olathe or to every contact that we have in the system in the entire county. We can take from a very small area all the way up to every contact that we have.”

The system now has about 8,000 people registered and an average of about 50 people a day have been signing up for the service, Erickson said. In comparison, the 411 system has about 140,000 phone numbers.

Currently there are what Erickson called nine partners taking part in the system: Olathe, Overland Park, Lenexa, Water One, Prairie Village, Shawnee, Mission Hills, Roeland Park, and Johnson County government. Johnson County, Olathe, Overland Park, Lenexa and a group called 101, were the founding partners. There is a cost breakdown in how the partners contribute to the system. A jurisdiction with 25,000 or less residents pays about $5,000 a year. Larger jurisdictions, Erickson said, pay more.

The partners are working with Everbridge, Inc., a leading firm in emergency and incident alert systems, to implement NotifyJoCo.

“But that’s really not much in the scheme of things with what we have the ability to do,” he said. “Several other cities will be coming on board over time.”

To register, go to NotifyJoCo.org and click on the “Register Now” tab in the top right-hand corner of the web page and then type in the requested information. Once done, click save and you’ll begin to be notified.

“At anytime, you can go into your account and opt out of anything you have clicked on by just unchecking the box,” Erickson said. “And, you also can just add to your list by simply checking the box.”

For people who do not have access to a computer, they still can register for NotifyJoCo by calling 913-826-5555.

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