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Great Barrington Urging Residents To Sign Up For Emergency Alerts

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The town of Great Barrington is urging residents to sign up for its new emergency notification system.After using another system for nearly a decade, Great Barrington is launching the CodeRed emergency notification system utilized by Pittsfield and North Adams. According to the town, the move saves about $1,500 a year and expands service three-fold with the ability to pinpoint geographic populations within the town of about 7,100 people. Great Barrington Fire Chief Charles Burger says it will be used to inform people via phone call, text message and email about water main breaks, road closures, public safety incidents and also to solicit their help.

“If the whole community knows that an elderly person with dementia is missing with the description of what they’re wearing and everything then you have a couple thousand people with their eyes open as opposed to just the limited number of emergency responders,” said Burger.

Police Chief William Walsh says the town will also use the system, sparingly, to let people know about important town meetings or events. He says the decision of when to send out emergency notifications depends on each incident.

“Any type of critical incident is driven by the facts on the ground,” Walsh said. “A lot of those things are fluid and we have to be flexible in when we get the word out. The normal stuff, like a weather emergency, that goes out right away. On other things, it might be a search or a missing person, there is a time and place when we send these notifications.  

Burger says the departments will continue to use social media and the town’s website to disseminate information in addition to the notification system.

“There are lots of ways to get the message,” Burger said. “If there is no answer on a cell phone or any phone it does leaves a message so you would get the notification later when you get back into [cell] service. When you sign up you get to select what information you receive and how. We can send out pertinent town information like upcoming town meeting, but when you register you can select whether you just want emergency notifications, general notifications and how you receive them. You can receive information by landline, email, text messages and cell phone.”

Although the majority of landlines in Great Barrington have already been enrolled in the system, Walsh says it’s important for people to register to make sure the information is up-to-date.

“All of this information is private,” Walsh said. “The company does not sell it to other folks or anything like that. That seems to be the biggest concern we’ve had from people when registering.”

As of August 25, about 500 cell phones and more than 600 email addresses were listed in the town’s CodeRed database. With clients in all 50 states, the Emergency Communications Network offers statewide systems in New Hampshire and Rhode Island along with a cell phone app that can send notifications using the GPS tracker on a phone. In Berkshire County, Adams, Dalton and Lenox also use CodeRed. Lt. Col. Thomas Grady of the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office says most towns in the region don’t use CodeRed or a similar system because of the annual costs. The Sheriff’s Office uses a reverse 911 system that covers the entire county. Landlines are automatically enrolled, but cell phone numbers and email addresses need to be individually added. Great Barrington residents can enroll in the town’s CodeRed system via the town’s website or by going to the town clerk’s office, the public libraries and senior center.

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