Kent launches new emergency notification system

By Thomas Gallick | Staff Writer Published:

Residents of Kent and Franklin Township may start seeing "Kent Police" pop up on their phones' caller ID displays.

Those words will appear if an employee at Kent's dispatch center sends an emergency notification to residents through the city's new Swift911 messaging system in the event of a severe storm, water main break or other emergency.

The city already has 5,000 phone numbers in its database for the messaging system, but officials said residents should not assume the city has their number.

Kent Safety Director Bill Lillich said even residents who think the city already has their contact information should sign up for the alerts online if they want to receive them.

"We'd rather people check than presume," he said.

Those who live in Kent and Franklin Township can sign up for the notifications at www.kentohio.org/dep/swiftreach.asp. Residents can also list alternate phone numbers, or sign up for messages via email, text message or phones for the deaf and hearing impaired at the site.

Numbers listed in the database should receive a test call or text message from the system sometime later this month. The system should be fully operational by May 1.

Lillich said the city and township will pay approximately $7,000 for the system per year. He said neither community had a similar tool in the past to notify residents of local emergencies.

"We didn't have something like this in place," he said. "Generally, we relied on the sirens and sometimes low-power radio. Depending on the type of emergency that may occur, we still might use both of those."

Lillich said the city can use Swift911 to selectively notify a limited number of residents if the event, like a water main break, is only expected to impact a certain geographic area of the city or township.

"We can go into the command console, circle a particular area and send a message out that will only go to the registered addresses in that area," Lillich said.

The system will also be used to improve communication among members of the city's fire and police departments.

Kent Fire Chief Dave Manthey said Swift911 will offer two-way communications, which should work better than traditional pager systems.

"It gives us a few more capabilities," Manthey said. "Our guys can respond to the page now through their phones and when they accept it we know they're coming in."

Residents can remove themselves from the notification system by going to www.kentohio.org and clicking on the Swift911 icon on the home page and following further instructions, or mailing a request to the city manager's office at 215 S. DePeyster St. in Kent.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or tgallick@recordpub.com

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