St. Tammany launches new emergency alert system

St. Tammany Parish is launching a new emergency alert system that will allow residents to get telephone alerts sent to multiple phone numbers, including cellphones.

St. Tammany Parish spokesman Ronnie Simpson said the upgrade stems from Hurricane Isaac, when parish officials realized that more and more people are giving up their land lines in favor of mobile phones.

That trend means that the parish’s previous method of contacting residents in an emergency — a reverse call from the parish’s 911 database — was missing people.

The new system, which cost $4,000 for the software, will ensure that people who have given up their land lines be notified if there’s an evacuation order of other emergency, Simpson said.

The only catch is that people must register to receive notifications, something that wasn’t true of the old 911-based system.

St. Tammany Parish government is making a push to get people to sign up by going to the self-registration page at http://www.stpgov.org.

Residents who don’t have Internet access can use public computers at local library branches, a news release said.

The tag line that the parish is using is “if we can’t reach you, we can’t alert you,’’ Simpson said.

The system will be used to notify people about public safety situations, evacuation orders and security or health issues, according to Parish President Pat Brister’s office.

Simpson stressed that the system is not only for hurricanes. He pointed to a train derailment in Slidell as an example of a potential emergency that could trigger an alert. The parish also has three interstate highways that could have trucks carrying potentially hazardous chemicals, he said.

The new system allows parish officials to send out a targeted alert, he said. It’s also fast. Calls to a neighborhood of 500 homes could be completed in five to 10 minutes, he said.