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Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Community alert system in place

News Herald reports

PORT CLINTON -- A countywide community alert system about a year in the making has been activated.

Dispatchers from several local law enforcement agencies were trained Tuesday morning on the system, and it is now online and ready to go, said Jim Greer, director of the Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency.

And while the EMA is still finishing the activation protocol, Greer said Tuesday the system will be restricted to matters of "health and safety."

That prevents use of the system for reasons other than an emergency.

The Community Alert Network uses a computer to call phone numbers within a certain area and leave a prerecorded message about an emergency or other event.

County officials call the CAN office in New York to activate the system.

The need for the system emerged after a release at Brush Wellman in Elmore last February.

That release spotlighted a need for a better notification system, and county officials signed an agreement with CAN at the end of September.

Brush Wellman offered to foot the bill, as well.

One concern that arose recently for EMA officials was the invention of the TeleZapper, a device that when connected, emits a tone to fool a computer-dialer into thinking the phone number is disconnected.

It is designed to keep away telemarketers, but Greer said the device, which sells for about $50, can also fool the CAN system into thinking the number is disconnected.

No message will be left to a number that appears to be disconnected.

Officials have warned area residents that if they want to be notified via CAN, they should not invest in the TeleZapper.

The CAN system was brought in to complement other means of notification, such as door-to-door efforts, sirens throughout the county and the Emergency Alert System on televisions and radios.