WATAUGA — Watauga County announced on Nov. 6 that it will be moving to Hyper-Reach as its new mass emergency notification system instead of CodeRed due to a lower cost and being more user friendly, according to Watauga Fire Marshal Taylor Marsh.

Telephone-based mass notifications systems are used by thousands of public safety agencies across the U.S. to warn citizens about local emergencies, hazards and other threats, according to Watauga County Emergency Management. Hyper-Reach is a “state of the art” mass emergency notification system designed specifically for public safety, the agency added.

“Emergency Alerting through CodeRed has been used a great amount in Watauga County over the past several years and we want to stress the importance of all Watauga County residents signing up for the new alert system to ensure emergency notifications are reaching as many people as possible when an incident arises,” Marsh said in a statement.

Hyper-Reach is a mass notification system with more than 15 years of experience in emergency messaging, the organization stated. The new emergency alert system will provide rapid notification of hazardous and urgent situations using a mix of telephone calls, text and email messages and as well as a teletype/telecommunications device for the deaf service for the hearing impaired.

Other uses of Hyper-Reach include Amber alerts, toxic chemical warnings and armed shooter alerts. In addition to 911 centers, Hyper-Reach is used by law enforcement, educational institutions and corporations, according to the organization.

Watauga Emergency Management stated that the system sends thousands of messages to geographically targeted households in seconds and can simultaneously deliver them to an even broader audience via social media — such as Twitter. Additionally, it can send broadcast messages to most current mobile telephones (made since 2011) in an affected area by providing access to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s wireless emergency alert system.

“Our job is to protect the citizens of Watauga County as effectively and cost-effectively as possible,” said Will Holt, emergency services director for Watauga County. “We reviewed all the major vendors for emergency notification service, and Hyper-Reach gave us everything we needed and more. We’re really excited about this new capability.”

The county plans to use the service primarily for alerts about weather and environmental hazards, criminal activity and missing persons. Landline phones are automatically enrolled for community alerts, but weather alerts to landline phones and community and weather alerts to mobile phones and email addresses are only included when people enroll.

Due to a CodeRED company policy, Holt said those who are registered with the program will not roll over to Hyper-Reach. Citizens will need to register with Hyper-Reach to ensure they receive notifications. Holt said emergency management officials are working to make the registration process as streamlined as possible by posting direct links on social media, the county website and a text sign-up system.

Data portability was another factor as to why the county switched to Hyper-Reach, to hopefully prevent re-registration in the future if the county were to switch vendors, Holt said. The county expects to have the Hyper-Reach service fully operational by the end of Nov. 20.

Residents and people who work in Watauga County are encouraged to enroll now by calling or texting “Alert” to (828) 475-8725 or by visiting hyper-reach.com/ncwataugasignup.html.

Citizens can also download the Hyper-Reach Anywhere smartphone app — a free app that allows individual citizens to manage and monitor the alerts they receive, both for the home and office addresses as well as for other addresses people would like to receive notifications for.

“We’re honored to have been selected by Watauga County, N.C. to provide its emergency alerts,” said Sam Asher, president of Hyper-Reach. “It’s gratifying to be part of an effort to save lives and protect property and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

For more information about Hyper-Reach, visit www.hyper-reach.com or call (855) 266-8439 (855 2-Notify).

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