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Lake County encourages residents to sign up for notification system

Around the first of February, Lake County will begin a campaign encouraging the public to sign up for its Lake County Emergency Alerts mass notification system.

Lake County will be switching from its old system, CodeRED, to a new one, Lake County Emergency Alerts, powered by Everbridge.

Each year, the county evaluates warning systems as they improve with technology changes. Several years ago, for example, it discontinued the outdoor sirens and went to an internet-based system that reaches out to landline phones, cellphones, texts and emails.

"This year, the Everbridge system offers several advantages over our previous system that make it worth the switch," BJ Kohlstedt, Lake County emergency manager, said in a press release.

"First, it's easier and quicker for our sheriff's dispatchers to send alerts when time is of the essence," he said. "Second, Lake County will own the data submitted by the public, so alerts will come to you from a local phone number and email address (rather than an unidentified out of state number). Third, it allows us the capability to send messages through the federal IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System) that goes out to radio and TV stations, and all cell phones in a selected area. We can also copy messages directly to our County website and Facebook page.

"All this comes at a taxpayer cost of less than the previous system," Kohlstedt said.

Evacuations may be the most imperative messages, according to the release. Lake County has 36 preplanned evacuation zones for wildfire or other causes. Shelter-in-place warnings might be sent due to dangerous fumes from hazardous materials spills. Boil orders and road closures are other examples.

"Local government's highest priority is to provide for citizen safety, and we want to use as many tools as we can to do that," Kohlstedt said. "We think this is a good one."