SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — As damage assessment is now well underway from last weekend’s deadly storms, so too is the appraisal of a brand-new emergency alert system in Caddo Parish.
And several reasons are given for why emergency leaders changed direction and went with Everbridge on Jan. 1 after more than a decade with the Code Red alert system.
When emergencies strike, not all mass notification systems are created equal, especially when you consider that technology is constantly advancing.
That fact sometimes requires a reassessment of what system is best for taxpayers, in this case switching to Everbridge.
“It felt more like it was easy; okay hit here, do this notification sent. It was just kind of, it eased, in my mind it simplified it,” said Robert Jump, who serves as deputy director of the Caddo Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Their first public mention of Everbridge came during the news conference Friday just hours before severe weather arrived in Northwest Louisiana.
And the alert system got the public’s attention, Jump said.
“Saturday morning ‚I checked at it. And we had 800 individuals who actually had registered their personal information on the system. So that’s actually awesome.”
Jump explained how their office purchased more than 46,000 landline telephone numbers as part of the Everbridge contract.
Those numbers are installed in Caddo Parish and include businesses and residences.
But more people are cutting the cord, relying instead on cell phones.
And unlike those landline numbers, Jump said, there is no list of cell phone numbers for them to buy.
So the public must sign up to get those notifications on their phone by going online and clicking on the link with the City of Shreveport, the Caddo Parish Commission or the Caddo Sheriff’s Office.
So while 800 new numbers is a positive development, there’s a long road ahead when you consider the population of Caddo Parish totals more than 246,000.
When it comes to emergency notification in Caddo Parish, their contract with Code Red had also limited them to a total of 150,000 minutes of notification a year.
Anything over that amount would require the parish to buy, for example, another bank of 25,000 minutes.
That is not the case with Everbridge. It allows unlimited use.
That means the parish can use that service for much more than just emergencies, Jump explained.
For example, there could be general notifications about street closures, water boil advisories and more that are tailored to your individual needs.
That’s one reason Everbridge costs $54,000 a year, a full $24,000 more than Code Red.
Jump said the extra cost is worth every penny. “It’s considered the Cadillac of notification systems, in my mind.”
As for who foots the bill, it’s a combination of the City of Shreveport, the Caddo Parish Commission and the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office.
To sign up through the city or Parish Commission, just go to the bottom of their main pages.
Then click on the icon that says “Notify me” and follow the instructions.
With the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office, the link is atop its homepage as one of the rotating top stories. It’s titled “Emergency Alert System.”