Sumter EMA’s Poole explains Code Red

Published 10:53 am Thursday, June 14, 2018

By Ken Gustafson

AMERICUS — On May 15, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners voted to approve Code Red, a mass-notification system software that will deliver emails, text messages and phone calls to Sumter County citizens in the event of severe weather and other types of emergencies.
“We reviewed the contract and everything cleared as of this week,” said Nigel Poole, Emergency Management director of Sumter County.
According to Poole, the Code Red system went live on at 7 p.m. June 6 and is now available for Sumter County residents to sign up for without cost. Poole told the Americus Times-Recorder that the system will also allow the county to send messages that are important, but not necessarily life-threatening. Poole uses this example to show how Code Red works: “For example, if there is a boil water notice in your neighborhood, we can send messages only to that neighborhood,” Poole said. “This is a fantastic tool that we have in Sumter County now.”
Poole explained that the Code Red system allows the county to send mass notifications whether by landline phone, cell phone, text message or email to anybody that’s registered into the system. “This is a free service offered by the county for us,” Poole said. “It lets us get automatic weather alerts in referencing severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, anything that the National Weather Service deems important. It also allows us to send information to a specific location. If I need to send a message to everyone on Taylor Street, I can do that. If there was an incident on Taylor Street where all the residents would have to boil water, this system allows me to go in and pick everyone on that street or on that pipe that would need to boil the water,” Poole continued. He said Code Red allows him to send out information about an escaped inmate or any kind of information that the Emergency Management Agency deems necessary to be shared. He said that Code Red allows the Sumter County EMA to be creative as to how they use it.
Now that the Code Red system is in effect and live in Sumter County, residents can sign up for the service free of charge.
“We are open and taking the information right now,” Poole said. “We are effectively live. It took a little while between the May 15 board meeting till now just for us to go over the contracts to make sure that everything is amicable for both sides. We are live now. It’s as simple as going to and clicking on the Code Red picture on the website and following the steps therein.”
Poole emphasized that the Code Red service is a free service offered to Sumter County residents by the Sumter County government. Poole also emphasized that this service is an opt-in service. “If you want this service, you have to opt in,” Poole said. “We don’t have a list of every phone number in Sumter County. The only way to get this is to sign up for it. If you want to receive the messages, you have to sign up. You have to do a little bit of the work to get the notifications, but it’s a one-time thing. It takes you five minutes.” Poole said each account can hold up to four phone numbers. If a person registers themselves or, possibly, their children, parents or both, each account can hold up to four phone numbers to receive notifications. According to Poole, the only people the service would benefit are those living in Sumter County. However, he said, for instance, a parent lives outside Sumter County, and their child is attending school at Georgia Southwestern State University or South Georgia Technical College, that parent can register for the Code Red system by using the GSW or SGT address to get the notifications for their child. For those living outside of Sumter County who have relatives or friends living in the county, the person living outside of Sumter County can register in order to send notifications to relatives or friends living in Sumter County. Poole also said that in the case where a person who has previously signed up for the service is moving away from Sumter County and no longer has a need for it, that person can opt out of it at any time.
However, for those living in Sumter County, Poole believes that Code Red is and will continually be a tremendous asset to the residents of the county. It is something that he, along with the Sumter County Board of Commissioners, have been wanting to obtain for Sumter County for quite a while.
“It’s a fantastic service. We’ve been looking for a mass notification service for the past three years,” Poole said. “Code Red seems to be what everyone is choosing. A lot of our neighboring counties use it as well. It has an app you can download as well.”
According to Poole, getting a mass notification system such as Code Red has been budgeted by the county for the past two years. “This isn’t going to increase our taxes or anything like that,” Poole said. “The cost was $10,000 a year, and for implementation, there was no additional charge. It’s a recurring, yearly fee of $10,000 that the county pays that’s already been budgeted for and has been budgeted for the last couple of years. There should be no increase on anything tax-wise with this. It’s just a great tool for us to get our citizens the information they need in a timely manner.”
A convenient accommodation that someone who has Code Red can enjoy is being able to receive notifications while they’re on vacation, or out of town on business. “You’ll get a notification as soon as the National Weather Service deems it appropriate to issue a watch or a warning,” Poole said. “This takes the human error out of it.” Poole said for a long time, people had been depending on the National Weather Service to send emails to him. Then people depended on him to relay that information to them. With Code Red, things work differently. “Now, this will go directly to you without me having to send you an email, text message or anything,” Poole said. “This is a way for us to get you that information in a much more timely manner, and it takes the human error out of the equation, which is fantastic.”
According to Poole, Code Red does not send out notifications of missing children, such as Amber alerts. He said the Amber alerts system is something the federal government does. He said Code Red is a system that is more involved with local government. “If there is an Amber alert situation in our community, then that may be something that I put out,” Poole said. “You won’t receive an Amber alert from California on your Code Red system unless I decide to put it out.”
Poole said people living outside of Sumter County are free to sign up and use the county’s Code Red system. “We don’t have a limit to the amount of users,” Poole said. “They’re welcome to sign up if they need to.” However, Poole said that the Sumter County Code Red system will not allow anyone to register unless those who register do so using a Sumter County address. “Even If you’re a transient student that lives here in Sumter County, use the address of the college to keep up to date on that,” Poole said. “If you live in a community that doesn’t have the service, use the college address. Use the address of the business you work for to get this information. We have to take care of everybody in Sumter County regardless of where they lay their head at night.” For those who do not live in Sumter County, but live close to the county line, they must pick a Sumter County address if they want to register with the Sumter County Code Red system.
Poole said that they looked at several different mass notification systems trying to find one that would fit the needs of the county and its citizens and be within the county’s budget. “We looked at Everbridge. We looked at One Call Now. There are all sorts of different kinds. I can’t even think of all the ones we looked at,” Poole said. “There are thousands of companies out there, but we chose this one (Code Red) with the intent that our neighbors are using it so that we all are familiar with each other’s systems.” Poole said the costs of the different companies who offered mass notification were about average. “There was a cost range between $7,000 and $13,000. We found somewhere in the middle that fits exactly what we need,” Poole said. “It was a situation of comparing apples to oranges a lot of times. Some companies would do this portion of it and some companies would do this. We chose the one that offered the exact services that we needed.” He said Code Red offers services that the county needs that the other mass notification companies did not. That was the main issue.
Poole encourages anyone in Sumter County, as well as those living outside the county who may have relatives living in Sumter County, to register with the Code Red service. “The county has sirens that go off every Wednesday,” Poole said. “Those are outdoor-alert sirens. You have your TV that lets you know when the weather is getting bad. Your cell phone is probably the one thing that you have on you most of the time. This (Code Red) is a way for me and the county to get information to you, whether you’re in front of the TV, whether you’re outside at your child’s baseball game, or whether you’re just driving somewhere. It allows me to get that information to you in the most efficient and timely manner. This is what Sumter County is using from this point forward to issue emergency notifications to you.”
According to Poole, the thing that Sumter County was most in need of that Code Red provided was the ability to get out pertinent information immediately. “Code Red offered the system for us to immediately get out that information,” Poole said. “They allowed us to have an unlimited amount of users. They allowed us to have an infinite number of times we can use it. Some companies would offer you three notifications a year, and then they will charge you per notification per call. Code Red had an unlimited system. I’m not going to do this, but if I needed to send a notification every day, then we wouldn’t have to start counting our minutes or counting how much time we’ve used on it. This is something that we can send regularly.”
Poole said Code Red also allows the county to have an internal system with this. “If we needed to page all of the volunteer fire department people, then Chief [John] Ekaitis at the [county] fire department can set this up and have it just for him,” Poole said. Poole said if the head of the Department of Public Works wants to announce road closures, then he can do it from the Code Red system. “If they need to communicate with it internally, it’s a nice intranet system,” Poole said.
Poole said that if a robber tries to break into someone’s home, Code Red does not deal with that situation. “I don’t deal with police issues like that unless it’s, for instance, another situation in which we are on lockdown because we have an active shooter. I could draw a circle around that location’s school and let everyone know in that one-mile radius that there’s an active shooter situation going on in their location. It would allow me to do that.” He said that the day-to-day stuff, such as domestic disputes, burglaries, robberies and things of that nature are not dealt with by Code Red. Poole also said that if something is going on in one end of the county, such as Plains, people in Americus, unless they need to know, will not be getting notifications. “I can let people in a specific location know,” Poole said. Poole went on to say that he can set up the Code Red system in such a way that only people living on a specific street or a specific address on that street can get notifications, or he can set it up in such a way that citizens all over Sumter County who have signed up with Code Red would get notifications.
In summary, Code Red is a mass notification system software that will deliver emails, text messages and phone calls to people in the event of severe weather emergencies. Residents of Sumter County, as well as those who may live outside the county but have relatives or friends in Sumter County, can sign up for Code Red free of charge. To sign up, please click the link below and follow the prompts.
Director Poole has said that if anyone has any further questions about Code Red, they can email him at