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— After viewing Monday's demonstration of reverse 911, Benton County officials seemed enthusiastic about the possibilities of adopting the technology.

"I am pretty impressed. I really do not see how we cannot do it," Justice of the Peace Bob Stephenson said. "To me, it is things like this that the county is obligated to do."

JP Marge Wolf said, "It looks to me like a win-win thing."

JPs, Benton County Judge Dave Bisbee, area mayors, county employees and curious residents gathered Monday inside the Benton County Administration Building to hear more about Code Red, a brand of telephone emergency notification system Benton County could soon implement.

The system's demonstration comes on the heels of nearly two months of criticism and questions about Bisbee's decision to spend $65,000 - from a federal grant to purchase a notification system - on security cameras for the County Administration Building.

"After all of the controversy came up, there were lots of questions being asked, and when the county went belly up

(originally choosing not to im

plement a telephone notifica

tion system), I got put in charge

of looking at the thing for Bella Vista," Justice of the Peace and

Bella Vista Police Chief James

Wozniak said.

Code Red, a type of reverse-

911 system, is a Web-based sys

tem that can be used anywhere

in the world where someone has

Internet or telephone access.

Launching phone calls with the

system is a simple as logging

into a Web site and marking

whom the system should call,

explained Jill Mason, an ac

count representative with

Code Red.

"The biggest thing is ease of

use," Mason said.

The telephone notification

system is divided into two

products. One component can

be activated by anyone with ac

cess to the account to send out

alerts just about anything -

missing children, important

public meetings, evacuation

routes, emergency shelter open

ings or debris cleanup.

"This is really, really good

when you need to get people,"

Mason said.

The second component is the

Code Red Weather Warning

program. Each call is initiated

automatically when the Na

tional Weather Service issues astorm warning for an area, Mason said.

Code Red can build a database of phone numbers of county residents by pulling information from the National Consumer File and information from utility companies and business licenses, in addition to setting up a Web page for residents to sign up for the service, Mason said.

The emergency notification portion of Code Red can be purchased on an unlimited basis or by purchasing a minute bank, while the Code Red Weather Warning system is unlimited, Mason said.

Mason recommended that the county purchase 150,000 minutes, enough to make approxi

mately 300,000 calls for

$37,500 a year. She also rec

ommended the weather warning

package for an additional

$18,750 (after a 50 percent dis

count for purchasing both sys

tems).

"Unless you just overuse it,

the cost is not an issue," Bisbee

said. "Most of the mayors are

reasonably interested; they just

need the numbers."

For Bisbee, the most critical

part of the system seemed to be

the weather-warning compo

nent.

"For the county, we do not

have any weather-warning sys

tem, and some of the small

cities do not have it," Bisbee

said, "and that is the most critical part of this."

Community, Pages 9 on 08/12/2009

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