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Village Vision News

New mass notification system available

Thursday, January 29, 2015

MEANS replaces old Code Red system in village, ready now

Macon County Emergency Alert & Notification System, MEANS for short, is the new emergency notification system available now to village residents. It’s free to enroll in the system, and registration is fast and simple.

Simply start by going to the village’s website, www.forsythvillage.us/. Follow the link on the right-hand column of the homepage. The link sends you to the Macon County website, where you can learn more about emergency alerts by clicking on the green “READ MORE” icon before scrolling down to the blue “QUESTIONS” icon. Eventually, you will want to click on the red tab marked “SIGN UP NOW,” where you can customize the service to fit your needs.

“The Macon County Emergency Alert and Notification System allows us to alert residents to boil orders, street closures, water main breaks, and the like, as well as provide information on library programs,” Forsyth Village Administrator David Strohl said.

Strohl added that the main focus will be “mostly non-emergency,” adding that it shouldn’t be overused to the point where people become so used to it that they start to ignore it.

The alert texts and calls will come from numbers that residents can program into their phones so they will recognize the incoming call. Texts will come from 893-61. Phone calls will come from 217-425-5836. Programming these numbers into your phones is important since it’s so easy to ignore calls these days if you aren’t familiar with the number that shows up on your caller ID, Strohl said.

Maybe you only want weather alerts to come through, and that’s OK, Strohl said. It’s up to you to choose which kinds of alerts you want to get. You can even choose to have no alerts during quiet time or sleep time, but tornado warnings will always go through, Strohl said.

Strohl said you can also customize how you’d like to be notified and what kind of messages you’d like to receive in just about any combination imaginable.

“You can get a text using up to two phone numbers, or you can provide two e-mail addresses, and you pick the priority,” Strohl said. “You can say, ‘I want to be texted first on my personal mobile.’ ”

But, Strohl added, the system will go through whatever sequence you requested, from say, beginning with your cell phone to your landline and then on to e-mail addresses that you’ve provided. It will keep going through the sequence until you acknowledge receipt of the message. You can update your contact information and preferences at any time.

One example Strohl cited for the system’s targeted use is in the case of a water main break, noting that Public Works Director Larry Coloni could make use of a smartphone app with GPS that would allow him to “send out a message within a radius of the affected area.”

MEANS replaces the Code Red mass notification system. As with Code Red, Macon County emergency first responders are able to use the system to notify citizens of emergency situations. However, unlike Code Red, area communities are able to use the system to send a variety of notifications to residents. So far, Argenta, Forsyth, Mount Zion and Oreana have signed on to use the system, with each community contributing to its cost. Forsyth’s share of the cost is just over $3,000, according to Strohl.

Strohl emphasized that if anyone has difficulty in signing up to please call the village for assistance at 877-9445.

“If enough people had trouble, we might set up a class at the library,” Strohl said of one possibility for helping residents get signed up. 

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