Cobb County Emergency Alert System Now Works with Cell Phones, Text Messages

In today’s increasingly wired world, it can still be difficult for people to get timely information about emergencies. There were many people who, because they were working, alone with the television off, or similarly incommunicado, did not hear about massive scale tragedies such as the 911 attacks until hours later because they were simply cut off from the world. While sometimes being cut off from a tragedy simply saves you hours of worry, other times failure to get timely information about an emergency can threaten your life. That’s why one Metro Atlanta county has recently updated their reverse 911 system.

Cobb County has adopted the CodeRED emergency alert system. This system could call or text up to 60,000 residents at a time in response to a large scale or life-threatening emergency in their section of the county. The CodeRED system is a vast improvement over Cobb County’s current reverse 911 system, which can only call about 1,200 people per hour on its 20-phone line system. Cobb has never used the old system, which was installed in 2001, to alert its citizens of an emergency.

“It’s next generation communications,” said Ann Flynn, assistant director of Cobb County 911 told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“We’ll be able to text people, which is huge,” she said.

When updated, Cobb’s CodeRED system will be the most up to date emergency notification system in the Metro Atlanta Area. The City of Atlanta and Fulton County share a reverse 911 system. DeKalb County does not yet have a reverse 911 system, but plans to purchase one this year, and Gwinnett County currently has a system, but it can only reach about 1,000 residents per hour and does not have the capability to reach cell phones or send text messages – a severe downfall as more and more people come to rely on cell phones as their primary form of telephone communication.

So what kinds of emergencies will warrant the use of Cobb County’s CodeRED reverse 911 system? Anything from boil-water notices, gas leaks, Amber Alerts for missing children, or SWAT team operations in the neighborhood, says the AJC.

For now, the new Cobb County reverse 911 system will only be programmed to reach landlines, but those who wish to be notified on their cell phones will be encouraged to contact the county this fall and request inclusion.

Kennesaw State University, which is located in Cobb County, implemented a similar emergency response system two years ago. College campuses around the country, taking a lesson from the confusion surrounding the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting, have implemented systems similar to Kennesaw’s, which calls, text messages and emails students in the event of a crisis. Kennesaw State’s emergency warning system came in handy last March when a convict, Chris “Little Houdini” Gay, escaped his handcuffs near the campus and was believed to have wandered onto Kennesaw State grounds. No one was hurt in the incident, and Gay was later recaptured in Florida.