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Less than 20 percent of Coloradans are registered for emergency alerts

Posted at 12:23 PM, Jan 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-11 15:12:45-05

DENVER — If there was an emergency in your community, how would you learn about it? Social media? The news? Word of mouth? That could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. What if you could learn about it within a matter of seconds?

Email and phone emergency alerts are nothing new, but less than 20 percent of community members in Colorado are registered for these notifications. That means if there’s an emergency — which could range from a fast-spreading wildlife to an active shooter on the loose — less than a fifth of the community would know about it when it happened.

Michael Willis, director of the Colorado Office of Emergency Management, is aiming to change that in 2019.

“You can’t have enough different ways to be informed,” he said. “You never know where you’re going to be at the time when it’s important… You need to give yourself the opportunity to be informed.”

That’s especially relevant here in Colorado, where many people are active and not necessarily spending hours upon hours watching television or scrolling through social media, where they’d likely learn of an emergency soon after it occurs.

Signing up for community alerts through text, email and call gives you the best chance of learning about a dangerous situation as early as possible, Willis said.

“I encourage people to sign up not only in the county they live in, but the county they work in,” he said.

That also goes for locations where they often recreate, he said.

In 2019, Willis plans to increase the number of Coloradans who have signed up for these alerts. Part of the plan includes a roadshow of sorts, he said.

“We travel frequently to the counties to work with county emergency managers, county managers and county commissioners and try to put a voice to local communities through their local elected officials and their local emergency managers,” he said.

That will help another side of this issue: communities not testing out the alerts.

The tests aren’t complex or expensive to carry out — they’re just not high on the priority list, Willis said.

“There are so many things that our counties have to exercise and train,” he said. “It’s a matter of bringing focus and bringing priority to this.”

In his position, Willis said he wants to help communities understand and set priorities that include testing the alert systems.

He said he also hopes to increase the number of agencies that are authorized to send these emergency notifications.

“You have to go through deliberate training to operate these systems properly,” he said. “So, we at DHSEM (Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management) can help them get that kind of training and become an authorized alerting authority. Then, they’ll be in a better place to start their training and exercising program.”

That will help everybody in an emergency situation, but still, the issue remains: people haven’t registered for the alerts to begin with.

Why's that? Willis said it’s not because it’s complicated to do. Rather, it’s simply not on their radar.

Signing up for community alerts isn’t usually at the forefront of somebody’s mind when they move to a new area, Willis said. In addition, people have become somewhat apathetic to the potential of disasters that could occur where they live, work or play. They feel safe and don’t feel the need to sign up for the alerts. And then it slips their minds, he said.

It’s not just an issue in Colorado. Willis said it’s a nationwide problem. Only about 12 percent of the country’s population is registered for the notifications.

Willis and the Office of Emergency Management said they are trying to help Coloradans realize how important — and easy — it is to sign up for these alerts.

Willis lives in Douglas County and said signing up for the notifications took only five minutes. When he and his wife asked their sons to do the same in their respective Colorado counties, they reported back — it had only taken a few minutes.

“It’s a great New Year’s resolution, right?” Willis said. “We want you and your family to sign up today. And then you get to check something off your New Year’s resolution. It’s a lot easier than all the other resolutions people have.”

So, the big question: How do you sign up? Most cities, towns and counties have links on their websites that will take a user right to the page to sign up. But others are a bit more hidden. Denver7 worked to verify each link below to ensure it's working properly.

Note: If any of these links or numbers do not work or have expired, please email and we will update it.

· Adams County alerts
· Alamosa County alerts
· Arapahoe County alerts
· Archuleta County alerts
· Baca County alerts
· Bent County alerts
· Boulder County alerts
· Broomfield County alerts
· Chaffee County alerts
· Cheyenne County alerts
· Clear Creek County alerts
· Conejos County alerts
· Costilla County alerts
· Crowley County alerts
· Custer County alerts
· Delta County alerts
· Denver County alerts
· Dolores County alerts (and click green “Sign Up” button)
· Douglas County alerts
· Eagle County alerts
· Elbert County alerts
· El Paso County alerts
· Fremont County alerts
· Garfield County alerts
· Gilpin County alerts
· Grand County alerts
· Gunnison County alerts
· Hinsdale County alerts
· Huerfano County alerts
· Jackson County alerts (click on the Code Red logo)
· Jefferson County alerts
· Kiowa County alerts, to be added to the list, call the sheriff’s office at 719-438-5411 or the emergency management coordinator at 719-438-2288
· Kit Carson County alerts
· Lake County alerts
· La Plata County alerts
· Larimer County alerts
· Las Animas County alerts (sign up on city of Trinidad website)
· Lincoln County alerts
· Logan County alerts
· Mesa County alerts
· Mineral County alerts (sign up through Nixle by typing in your ZIP code)
· Moffat County alerts
· Montezuma County alerts
· Montrose County alerts
· Morgan County alerts
· Otero County alerts
· Ouray County alerts
· Park County alerts
· Phillips County alerts
· Pitkin County alerts
· Prowers County alerts
· Pueblo County alerts
· Rio Blanco County alerts
· Rio Grande County alerts
· Routt County alerts
· Saguache County alerts
· San Juan County alerts (sign up through Nixle by typing in your ZIP code)
· San Miguel County alerts
· Sedgewick County alerts
· Summit County alerts
· Teller County alerts
· Washington County alerts
· Weld County alerts
· Yuma County alerts

The DHSEM has listed emergency management leaders' contact information on its website.