Crawford County Emergency Management implemented a mass notification system this past week to keep citizens informed about any emergencies.

Residents can download the CodeRed Mobile Alert app from the app store on their phone, as well as sign up for notifications at https://www.crawfordcountykansas.org/.

“It is free, but there is a thing on the app where, if you want, you can get an extended deal for 99 cents,” Jason Vanbecelaere, Crawford County Director of Emergency Management, said. “They do not have to do that because the county pays for this.”

The county will use the app to send text messages out to citizens regarding any significant event, including tornados and law enforcement barricading an area off. Considering this project is in its infancy stage, Vanbecelaere said he plans on conducting training sessions with various department heads.

“We are applying for Integrated Public Alert Warning System, and even though it takes a couple of months for the application to go through, we’ll be able to automatically send messages out even if people are not signed up,” he said. “If we have some kind of warning we need to put out, it will go to all of the cell phones in the area, so it’s a pretty neat system.”

According to the director, discussion about introducing this system began about five months ago.

“Just about all of my emergency management counterparts in surrounding counties use this system and they kind of did my research for me,” Vanbecelaere said. “If they are using it, then it must be a good system.”

As of right now, the county can release only weather warnings that automatically come from the National Weather Service.

As the lead champion of this initiative, Vanbecelaere discussed how vital communication is during an emergency.

“If we have significant damage and they don’t know where to get help, we can get that information out to them,” he said. “You could send this message out to 39,000 people all at once and you just have one messenger — it’s clear and it it lets people know what they need to do and where they need to go in the time of an emergency.”

 — Brandon Schmitz is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be reached at bschmitz@morningsun.net.