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County launches new emergency alert system

Yakima County has implemented a new emergency notification system for all Yakima County residents.

The system is in place for the 14 incorporated cities and unincorporated areas within the county, according to the Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management.

It will allow 9-1-1 dispatch centers in Yakima County to notify residents in case of emergencies, such as fires, floods and severe weather, according to officials.

Director Scott Miller said law enforcement and first responders will be able to notify dispatchers of an emergency, alerting residents in a “targeted area.”

That includes asking residents in specific areas to evacuate.

Miller said this eases the burden on officials, giving them the freedom to respond to the emergency rather than having to go door-to-door.

Residents will be alerted to an emergency much faster, too. The new system has the capability to notify through voice messaging to land line and cell phones, text messages, emails, faxes and pagers. Residents can register multiple phone numbers, emails and addresses, as well as special/functional needs.

“Eventually it will be a great benefit — it will notify residents what to do in the event of an emergency like an ammonia fire,” Grandview Fire Chief Pat Mason said.

He said it will also free up personnel, especially when manpower is low.

“That’s why we are trying to get people to opt-in,” Miller said.

Currently, the system has only landline phone numbers programmed. If citizens want to be notified via other means, they will need to sign-up (opt-in). Officials said people can also visit www.yakimacounty.us to sign up.

By opting in, residents receive a notification no matter where they are, Miller said.

“For instance, if a person lives in Grandview and works in Sunnyside, they will know what is going on at home,” he said.

When signing up, residents will have the option to receive weather alerts and choose which ones they want, as well as creating a user name and password, according to the emergency management office.

Users can update or change their contact information at any time. There is a smartphone app available to receive alerts via iPhone and Android.

Officials said participation in the new system is entirely voluntary. Those who don’t sign up will not be notified through the system when an alert is sent out.

All personal information provided is secure, confidential, and will never be shared with any organization, officials said.



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