“They had a reverse 911 system,” Hood said. “It is what EMA relied on as far as messaging the public in an event that would be along the lines of catastrophic. It was only getting out to 9,000 users and we have somewhere around 220,000 residents. Plus, just last year alone we had 6.6 million visitors. Reaching 9,000 people is not even reaching a fraction of the population that would need to be receiving alerts.”
He and other emergency agency staffers began looking for a better way to get notifications out about incidents, law enforcement activity, traffic and especially natural disasters.
“There are several options that we looked at,” Hood said. “We spent a good two to three months evaluating various companies, different platforms, what they can do. We became experts in the industry of mass notification.”
On Dec. 17, the commission authorized the acceptance of a Homeland Security grant that will cover almost all of the nearly $50,000 to operate a system for a year with the county kicking in about $2,000 to cover the costs.
“What the commission is giving permission on is a system and not necessarily one specifically,” Hood said. “We have the specs and there are four or five different companies that are very reputable, they’re very good, they’re nationally utilized.”
He and staff cast a wide net to explore what systems were out there and which might work the best here.
“We started looking at options and looking at what other counties were doing not only here in the state but around the country,” Hood said. “We determined that technology has really come to a point and we needed something that would not only provide large or mass notifications, but we needed something that was good for Baldwin County.”
While a handful of companies came back with solid proposals that met the specifications set out in the bid process, he said one stood out.
“Specifically, Everbridge would be our best option,” Hood said. “There’s some patent technology that they have that no one else has, and that’s what we’re after. What we wanted was the best for the county and the most cost-effective way. Fairhope currently utilizes it and is very successful with it. However, it’s going to be in the hands of procurement. I want to make sure we follow all the right guidelines and stuff.”
Also, with Everbridge, there might be a statewide push that will be using its technology and would be helpful for Baldwin County to easily coordinate with, Hood said.
“There’s legislation going forward that possibly would be to where the state would be funding Everbridge fiscally moving forward,” Hood said. “If that happens, we certainly wanted to be able to fold right into that and benefit from it versus if we had a different platform. It would be like starting all the way from scratch again.”
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