Editorial: Emergency communications upgrade is a plus for Shelton residents

The Shelton Board of Aldermen has taken a step forward by approving a contract with CodeRed to improve communications with the public during emergencies, such as snowstorms, other natural disasters, fires, gas pipe problems, major traffic accidents, and missing person events.

The CodeRed system will enable the city to send messages to Shelton residents, business owners and other stakeholders by a variety of channels, such as phone, text, email, or social media.

The city will pay CodeRed from $17,000 to $15,000 a year to provide the notifications, sometimes called a reverse 9-1-1 system, but it’s money well spent in an era when people expect to be kept informed of what is happening on a real-time basis.

Snowstorm aftermath

The communications gap came to the forefront in the aftermath of the early February snowstorm that dropped about 30 inches of snow in the city, paralyzing the entire state. A free reverse 9-1-1 system provided by the state appears to have failed to fully distribute messages from the city of Shelton, leaving many snowed-in Shelton residents uncertain about what was going on in their hometown.

Non-emergency public service announcements, such as for planned road closures and trash and recycling pickup changes, also may be sent through CodeRed. The messages could be targeted to specific geographic areas.

Once operational in Shelton, CodeRed will have the ability to contact all land-line phone numbers in Shelton. People also may sign up to get messages through their cell phones, email addresses and social network accounts.

There is no cost to sign up for the service. It is expected that people will be able to sign up for the messages through the city’s website, cityofshelton.org.

Various other companies considered

The selection of CodeRed came after looking at offers from various emergency communications companies, and with the support of Mayor Mark Lauretti. CodeRed is used by many nearby towns for emergency communications or high-speed notifications.

“We thought this was the best system,” said Alderman John P. Papa, chairman of the Public Health and Safety Committee. “Many towns use it, so it’s a proven entity.”

In these times of easily accessible information, the city of Shelton’s decision to hire CodeRed will make emergency and storm updates more accessible to its residents.