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Northampton citizens urged to sign up for Code Red

JACKSON – Northampton County has been using the “Code Red” system for a decade now, but less than half of the people in the county are signed up to receive general and emergency alerts.

That was the update provided by Northampton County E911 Director Tammie Piland at the Board of Commissioners meeting held here on Jan. 20.

Piland shared current enrollment statistics to show that they could be reaching more people with vital information.

Out of approximately 23,000 people in the county, the system sends alerts to 7,599 phones. 985 people get text messages while 475 receive their alerts through email. 989 are signed up for weather warnings as well.

“We’re not satisfied with just that number of people,” said Board Chair Charles Tyner. “That’s something we’ve got to work on.”

“We’re not reaching hardly any of our citizens,” Piland agreed.

The commissioners briefly discussed different methods they could use to let people know the system is available for signups.

There are a couple of different ways people can register for the alert system. People can visit the Northampton County website (www.northamptonnc.com) and click on the “Code Red” link at the bottom of the page to be redirected to the registration page. Or they can click on the “residents” tab at the top of the Northampton County website and then select “public announcements” and then “weather notifications” for more information.

Additionally, people have the option of signing up by texting northamptonnc to 99411. The word is not case sensitive but does need to be sent as one word without spaces.

The county pays $14,100 every two years for the system, a cost that has not changed since the initial contract in 2011. It also has a 125,000 minute bank to be used between both emergency and general notifications.

Speaking to the News Herald on Friday, County Manager Charles Jackson emphasized the importance and urgency of utilizing the Code Red system.

“Residents can instantly receive crucial information during a major crisis—including COVID-19,” he explained. “These notifications provide information regarding necessary actions that can ultimately save lives.”

In addition to the Code Red discussion at the Wednesday night meeting, Piland also presented a brief update about the county’s transition to the Next Generation 911 (NG911) system currently being implemented across North Carolina.

“The benefit of NG911 is that the call routing is based on the call’s location, not the wireless towers,” Piland explained.

That means callers on the edges of the county won’t be routed to 911 services in neighboring counties, saving on response time by cutting down on call transfers.

Additionally, Piland said the new system would also allow people to text or send a video to 911 if they’re unable to speak in an emergency situation.

Piland described the new system as “accurate and reliable.”

Currently, the county is in the initial phases of the switch. The target completion date for the whole state is the end of Dec. 2021.