Washington Co. gets new citizen alert system

Posted at 5:04 PM, Jun 17, 2013

ST. GEORGE -     When there’s an emergency and you’re not home, how do you know? Washington County is rolling out a new citizen alert system that sends messages to you wherever you are.

“It’s the ability to be well-informed,” said St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain. “And know of potential problems or things that are happening in all areas of Washington County.”

The Washington County dispatch center monitors emergencies for close to a dozen cities and towns. In disaster situations, they send out alerts to home owners. In the past they relied on emergency notification services, but St. George police said in a society that’s moving away from land lines, that’s not always possible. The Citizen Alert System is the next generation of reverse 911 and combines alerts to cell phones, emails and other mobile devices.

“[The system] enables us to get information out to so much more than a land line,” Despain said. “Now we have the capability of getting alerts and information out to citizens via text messaging, cell phones, emails. Utilizing the technology that everybody uses every day.”

It’s similar to those systems used by other agencies, like the national Amber aAert system, but St. George police said it’s a way to combine all those communication resources into one and reach citizens faster.

“We utilized it a few weeks ago with an elderly gentleman that was missing in the downtown St. George area,” Despain said.

The catch, citizens have to sign up and give police their information. While some may be wary about handing over their email and cell phone number, most of those we talked to say they didn’t mind.

“I think it’d be a great service,” Santa Clara resident Jason Godfrey said. “The benefits would far out-weigh any potential problems.”

“I want them to be able to reach me,” St. George resident Heather Pinegar said. “I’m a fan of law enforcement and want to support them, whatever makes their job easier."

To sign up for the Washington County citizen alert system, visit their website.