County: Sign up for emergency alerts

The severe weather just seems to keep coming this year, and La Porte County Emergency Management officials are reminding county residents of the Emergency Alerting System, which will automatically notify those who sign up about storms, road hazards or other potential emergency situations via text, phone or email.

La PORTE — With wet, windy, stormy weather showing no signs of ending soon, La Porte County officials are reminding residents they can get immediate alerts about dangerous conditions right at their fingertips.

The county is encouraging people to sign up for its free Rave Alert service, which warns of hazardous weather, natural disasters, traffic accidents and other emergencies via voice, email or text message. 

Residents can sign up for the service by visiting laportecounty.org, scrolling down to "To Sign Up for the La Porte County Emergency Alerting System" and clicking the link in the text below. The link directs users to the Smart 911 website, where they can enter up to nine phone numbers — including landline phones — to receive alerts on, as well as an email address and the type of messages they want to receive.

Users can choose to receive the following types of alerts: 

• Emergency Alert Notifications, which include warnings for severe weather, hazardous material spills or other safety-related events

• General Alert Notifications, which include non-emergency situations like mosquito fogging, siren testing, emergency drills or training.

• Weather Alerts, which include only severe weather incidents

• Road Closings, which include warnings for road closures due to weather, accidents or construction

Finally, users can decide how the system sends each notification – via text, voice or email.

Residents can also text "LPCWeather" or "LPCRoads" to 67283 to sign up for alerts without creating an account through Smart 911.

The county has used Rave Alerts since summer 2017. 

La Porte County Emergency Management Agency officials first discovered the program while looking into creating an internal alert system for county employees, to warn them of building closures or weather delays, said Jeff Wiatrowski, executive assistant with the department.

EMA officials learned they could include alerts for the public for slightly more money, he said.

The county settled on Rave Mobile Safety, a notification program used by public agencies across the country, Wiatrowski said.

"We looked at several systems, and this one had the most bang for our buck," he said. "It had the most things we wanted for the price we wanted."

Every employee of EMA can send out emergency alerts through the system, using a series of prebuilt message templates to speed up the process, Wiatrowski said. The system delivers notifications to users' phones almost instantly.

"Ninety-five percent of people registered with the system receive a notification within five seconds," he said.

In the event the service cannot deliver a message to a user's device – if they are in an area without cell service, for instance – it will continue to try and send the notification until it's delivered, Wiatrowski said.

Over the past two years, around 2,500 people have signed up to receive one or more types of alerts, Wiatrowski said. The county saw a big jump in users following the severe storms that hit the area on Memorial Day.

Those who have already registered with Rave Alerts are encouraged to relog into their account every six months to ensure information is up to date.

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