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Pierce County enhances its ALERT system

Pierce County residents and businesses have a new way to receive alerts about natural disasters and other emergencies.

Pierce County ALERT is a mass notification system that allows the Department of Emergency Management and other first responders to notify residents via a "reverse 911" type of message. Besides automatically sending the messages to land lines, Pierce County ALERT enhances the ability to contact residents by allowing them to opt in and add up to 10 modes of receiving these alerts, including cell phones, work phones, pages, text messages, e-mails and faxes.

"Recent studies have shown that 25 percent of households are wireless - meaning they just use cell phones as home phones. Pierce County ALERT will allow us to notify that quarter of the population that we've been missing," said Steve Bailey, director of Pierce County Emergency Management.

"I encourage everyone in Pierce County to opt in," added Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. "Whether there is a major storm coming or an evacuation order has been issued near a flooding river or help is needed to finding a missing person, we need the whole community to be notified, not just those with land lines."

Residents and businesses in Pierce County can opt in on the Internet, by phone or by mail. The preferred method is the Internet by accessing the Pierce County ALERT button at the bottom of the Pierce County government's home page at www.piercecountywa.org and following the opt-in instructions.

People can also call the Department of Emergency Management at 253-798-6595 for more information and to register over the phone. General information and frequently asked questions about Pierce County ALERT can be found at www.piercecountywa.org/ALERT.

Besides choosing how to receive emergency notifications, users also can choose to receive alerts regarding locations of interest - emergencies that may affect a residence, workplace, school or other areas that are within the boundaries of Pierce County. Businesses benefit when their employees opt in because wherever they are, information can be relayed to their employees about Pierce County emergencies.

The system will be used to notify residents and businesses about significant risks to health and safety. Public safety officials can send alerts about emergencies such as severe weather, floods, utility disruptions or critical police activity. Emergency alerts may be sent 24 hours a day, based on severity.

People with land lines will continue to receive emergency notifications, regardless of whether they opt in with other devices. For those who do opt in, they will receive an emergency notification on their land line phone as well as all the other devices they have listed and in the order they prefer.

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