By K.B. Sherman
“We are continuing to evaluate the system, but so far, it looks very promising,” Taylor told the board.
When tornados hit central Massachusetts in June 2011, area residents only had at their disposal the television-based emergency alert system. Under this system, a message appeared on TV screens bearing an abbreviated warning regarding the tornados that were rampaging across New England. The tornados devastated areas in Massachusetts, especially in Springfield and at Southbridge Airport, where 32 of 35 airplanes were destroyed along with several hangars and other buildings. Under the existing system all that can be included in such a message is a general warning for a large area. Those not watching their televisions at the time the message crawls across the screen receive no warning from the town or state.
Under CodeRED, a joint program with Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations (SELCO), a computer calls and delivers a warning to all the registered telephones associated with the warning area. In this way a warning can be passed much more quickly and comprehensively and it can be tailored to specific geographic areas. CodeRED is a voluntary system and residents must sign up for the service, which can contact both land lines and cellular phones. To sign up online, go to http://www.shrewsbury-ma.gov/ and then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the CodeRED link.
Approximately 1,000 town residents have signed-up for CodeRED. As Taylor noted, “violent weather can be a life-altering event.”