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Denver's new opt-in emergency alerts system for texts, emails and calls is live

Denver's new emergency alerts system
Posted at 6:15 PM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 21:03:41-05

DENVER — As of Monday, people living in Denver can sign up for emergency alerts that they can receive as texts, emails and phone calls.

Currently, Denver can send out alerts to cell phones, like AMBER Alerts, using FEMA's Emergency Alert System known as IPAWS, but its use is limited.

"We can only send those for major emergencies. If we abuse that system, FEMA will take it away from us," Denver 911 Emergency Communications Director Andrew Dameron said Friday. "What we're talking about now with Everbridge are these community notifications or what's commonly referred to as reverse 911."

This new system gives the county more control over the type of alerts it can send out and their frequency. For example, it can use this Everbridge system to send out alerts for smaller emergencies, like someone armed, dangerous and posing a threat near a specific block.

"That gives us the opportunity to push something out that says 'Hey, there's police activity in your neighborhood. Stay inside, you know, stay away from windows.' That kind of thing," Dameron said.

The alerts also work in situations like a major wildfire threatening specific neighborhoods, similar to what happened with the Marshall Fire.

"We would have this community notification which we can send to a small block range or we could send to the entire city," Dameron said.

It takes just a few minutes to opt-in for the alerts. All you have to do is provide your name, phone number and address and create a username and password. Once you create an account, you can also add multiple addresses in Denver, like your job or parent's house.

"That's why it's so important for folks to go online [and] register to receive these alerts, because you never know when you're going to need to receive that alert from us," Dameron said.

Since launching the opt-in portal on Monday, nearly 3,000 people have signed up to get the alerts. Dameron says the system has been in the works for nearly two years.

"We made the switch from another platform at the tail end of 2019. The implementation began in March 2020, right when the pandemic hit," he said.

This new system works in addition to the system used to send reverse 911 calls to landlines throughout Denver County during an emergency.

The goal is to get more people to opt-in to receive alerts from the Everbridge system, but even if that takes some time, Dameron says the company has a growing database of cell phone numbers associated with the Denver metro area from open-source data.

"It's not going to be 100% accurate," he said. "It's not going to get everybody who lives here, and it might get a couple people who don't live here. But it certainly gives us a leg up in ensuring we notify as many people as we possibly can."

You can sign up for the alerts here.