Lee officials eye joining reverse 911 system


LEE - The town of Lee is looking to join Pittsfield, North Adams and other Berkshire communities in implementing a system to alert residents about emergencies.

Lee officials are reviewing proposals from five private companies to install a so-called "reverse 911" program.

The system sends alerts via home phone, cell phone, email and text to homes, businesses and individuals within minutes.

If enacted, the system would be similar to CodeRED launched in Pittsfield and North Adams last month, according to Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis.

"It's something we've considered for some time so we can let people know about water main breaks, road work, as well as major emergencies," said Buffis, the town's emergency management director.

"The technology is out there and we need to take advantage of it," he added. While the Board of Selectmen at their regular meeting Tuesday night discussed implementing a reverse-911 program, no vote was taken on moving forward or how to pay it. Town Administrator Robert Nason said funding the emergency notification system could be rolled into the town's fiscal 2014 budget starting July 1.

Nevertheless, Selectman Gordon Bailey supports such a system, in part, because nearly all the other Berkshire cities and towns have one.

"We need to get up to snuff with everybody else," Bailey said after the meeting.

Lee officials say homes and business es with public telephone numbers will automatically be on the call list. Residents have the option of adding their cell phone numbers and email addresses to the database.

The messaging system can also be used to target specific areas of a community, Buffis noted.

The municipal reverse 911 program would be separate from the one Lee Public Schools began using two years ago.

School Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said the school district's emergency notification network has come in handy when alerting parents, teachers and students of a snow day and other unplanned or unexpected school- related issues.

"Fortunately, we haven't had to use the system regarding a full- scale school evacuation," McCandless said. " It's been used more to get messages out to parents to make them aware of certain situations."


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