Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders
94 Market Street. Salem, N.J. 08079

CONTACT: Rita Shade Simpson, Clerk of the Board/Administrator

October 31, 2002


MANNINGTON -- Salem County Freeholder Michael Facemyer, who oversees the County’s law enforcement and emergency response agencies, today announced that the County will install a "reverse 9-1-1" public notification system for quick alerts of public health and safety emergencies.

"This technology gives us the capability to automatically dial every telephone number in the County’s 911 system or a customized group of numbers and deliver a recorded message or special instructions," said Facemyer. "The reverse 9-1-1 will provide Salem County residents with added protection and security in these uncertain times."

The 16-line system will call 1,980 phone numbers in one hour and deliver a 30-second recorded message, or 3,960 phone numbers an hour with a 15 second message. A shorter message increases the speed and volume delivery. Five thousand numbers can be dialed for about $350.

The technology will cost approximately $46,000 to buy and install, and about $12,000 for operations and maintenance.

"The cost of this technology was beyond our capabilities several years ago. But now, the price has dropped considerably and the technology improved greatly. It is an excellent investment, especially when you consider the benefits to manpower, timeliness, and effectiveness," Facemyer said.

The reverse 9-1-1 system is sophisticated, state-of-the-art technology, and it is linked to a computerized, interactive mapping system.

"For example, if there is a threat of explosion and we need to evacuate an area quickly, we can literally draw the street boundaries on the computer monitor and the system will begin dialing all the homes and businesses on that street or block of streets," explained Facemyer .

Facemyer said the reverse 9-1-1 system also can be used to notify residents about weather-related closings, tornado and storm threats, air quality alerts, emergency road or bridge closings, and "Amber Alerts" for missing children. The system can also advise Salem County residents when an emergency is over.

"With the recent arrest of the Beltway Snipers, we’ve all been reminded how a vigilant public can assist law enforcement in finding someone. The reverse 9-1-1 can be used to let Salem County residents know vital information to help law enforcement officials solve a case or to help find a lost child," Facemyer said.

"Time is always of the essence in an emergency, and the reverse 9-1-1 saves critical time. This is especially important to us in Salem County. We are unique. We do not have a local broadcast media in the County, so you can not turn on the radio to learn of emergency conditions and get frequent updates. We do not have a method of quickly alerting people in the County to an urgent threat or weather emergency."

He said the system also will allow emergency response personnel to be more effective.

"If there is an accidental fume release, we can call people in that community and advise them to stay in doors, and then call them back when the alert is over. We can replace or supplement the door-to-door notification that is time-consuming for police officers, firemen, and emergency response personnel," said Facemyer.

"A perfect example, would be the road closings and heavy smoke we experienced last summer when the marshes caught fire in Pennsville. With reverse 9-1-1, we could have quickly notified residents to stay in doors and advised of major road closings."

Freeholder Facemyer said the reverse 9-1-1 system can also be used to replace the traditional phone chain used by schools.

"Schools will be able to put their notification numbers into our system – home numbers, work numbers, back-up numbers. Then, if a school has to close early due to the snow, the reverse 9-1-1 can make the calls. The system will give us an immediate print-out of all phones not answered, and continue to redial. "

The technology is expected to be operational by mid-February. A task force will work with townships and schools to customized groups of numbers to be dialed for emergencies. A public awareness campaign also will be part of the project.

Facemyer said he will work in conjunction with Congressman Frank LoBiondo to secure additional funding.

"We are receiving a $670,000 bio-terrorism grant to implement various public health, environmental, and emergency response programs. Part of the grant can be used to implement the reverse 9-1-1 public notification system," said Facemyer.

"Congressman LoBiondo has assured us he will help Salem County with additional public safety funding for public health and emergency safety programs."

Facemyer said local industry and business are enthusiastic about installing a reverse 9-1-1 system, and he envisions a partnership as the uses of the technology expands.

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