Jackson County to upgrade its reverse 9-1-1 system

Jackson County is upgrading its reverse 9-1-1 system after it experienced difficulties during last year's fires in Ashland and Medford that destroyed several homes.

Mike Curry, the directory of emergency preparedness for the county, said the new system will make it easier to keep the public in the know should a large-scale disaster strike.

The system, which is provided by Everbridge, a company that specializes in emergency services software, will allow residents to receive notifications through phones, text messages, Twitter, faxes and email.

The county has used a reverse 9-1-1 system for close to a decade. The previous system relied on dispatchers to mass call residents in a single area about dangerous situations such as fires, floods or large-scale police operations.

This system struggled during the massive fire in Ashland on Aug. 24 that consumed 11 homes in the Oak Knoll subdvision. Emergency dispatchers could not notify everyone because they did not have contact information for the entire neighborhood ravaged by the fires.

The new system calls for residents to opt in by registering their contact information with the county. Dispatchers then will be able to contact them should a disaster strike near their homes.

Users will also be allowed to register up to 15 additional locations other than their homes that they wish to be notified about in case of an emergency.

"So if you have loved ones in school, you can register that you want to be know if something happens at that school," Curry said.

The new system costs the county about $35,000 per year. Medford and Ashland will kick in money to the fund after three years, Curry said.

The system will be useful in non-emergencies such as road construction in the summer."If people want to be notified that a road is going to be closed they can have that sent to their phones," Curry said.

Curry hopes other cities in the county will link into the system.

"It's a good service that will help everyone," Curry said. "That's important because if we experience a large earthquake, everyone will be affected."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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