The Reverse 911 system was one topic discussed as the the Butler County Commission convened for their meeting Tuesday.


The Reverse 911 system was one topic discussed as the the Butler County Commission convened for their meeting Tuesday.

Chris Davis started by telling the commission that Reverse 911 is a computer program. He said you record the message to be sent just like on an answering machine
“It takes a database of addresses and phone numbers and geocodes it to a map, so that when you select an area on the map it knows what phone numbers are inside that area,” Davis said.

Commissioner Dan Woydziak asked whether a consultant was being paid to handle the system or if that was a staff responsibility.

“We buy the database through a third party,” Davis said.

Reverse 911 has been used 12 times so far in 2008. Of those, three were for missing children, one was for an Alzheimer's patient who walked away, three were for foot chases taking place after dark, two were for standoffs, one was for a train derailment with possible hazmat, one was a boil water order and one was evacuation due to flooding.

Davis said the system has received some concerns about its efficiency.

“There is a perception I guess with some folks that when we tell Reverse 911 to send something out that it's going to be done in a few minutes,” he said. “If you've selected up a big area with a lot of phone numbers, or if you've recorded a long message, this will take hours, literally. The system itself is working, but it's taking longer.”

Davis said they could have an alternative.

“There is one option I've been exploring and will probably come to you in the near future with,” he said.

That option is Mass Call, which transmits the sent message through cyber-space to a call center, which is then able to send out thousands of the calls at a time, greatly boosting the response time to get warnings out. That system has a $6,000 initialization fee. They would then be charged 20 cents per minute for every call.

As an example, Davis said sending a county-wide one-minute message would cost about $3,500 for a Mass Call. He said the one minute was a good standard to estimate from because that was about the average call time Reverse 911 currently makes. Twenty seconds are needed to set up the call, with the other 40 for delivering the content of the message.

Contrasting the speed of the Mass Call system, County Administrator Will Johnson told the commission that under the current system, it takes about 12 1/2 hours to send a 30 second message to everyone in a target area.

Davis added the current system disables every outgoing fax line in the process.

Woydziak asked what the cost of maintaining that service would be.

Davis said the data maintenance would cost them about $932 a year, with additional costs based on the number of Mass Calls they make.

Woydziak also asked whether the county would have to provide the data out to Mass Call.

Davis said the system would integrate with their current data system, so that would not be necessary. He also added that the Mass Call system would have to be used in all Reverse 911 scenarios.

Davis proposed that 65 percent of the bill be paid for out of the Wireless 911 fund and the other 35 percent out of the traditional 911 funds. He will bring back a quote for the commission in the near future.