EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM FOR THE CITY OF KINGSTON PROPOSAL

It became readily apparent during the recent water emergency that there is no appropriate emergency alert system in place for the City of Kingston. Just to recount events, on ,the Kingston City School district was notified of a “boil water alert” and immediately closed schools for the day. I became aware of the emergency as a result of the School District notification. Upon learning of the emergency, I attempted to get information from City Hall and the Kingston Water Department. Despite the emergency it was very difficult to get information . As an Alderman I felt it was my responsibility to inform residents in my ward. I took all steps I could think of to inform my constituents. I posted information on my facebook page and I emailed a small group of residents who have given me their email addresses. I then got in my car and knocked on the doors of elderly residents and anyone that I knew had a compromised immune system. I did this in ward 6 and on Grants Street in ward 7 (my father’s street). Not a single person that I contacted was aware of the emergency. We need to learn from that experience and develop an emergency notification plan . We were lucky that day, we might not be that lucky next time. That is what prompted me to research the different types of emergency alert systems available to municipalities similar in size to the City of Kingston. The ideal system would be a reverse 911 system. This system is very expensive and requires that residents register their phone numbers. I suspect it is far beyond the City’s means at this time. I would like to ask and encourage the city to seek possible grants available for a reverse 911 system. Now, and for the forseeable future, I think that we should utilize what we have at our disposal at NO cost to the taxpayers of the city of Kingston, the Fire Department sirens system. I think we need to develop a coordinated plan with all the fire houses in the City of Kingston. The plan includes the use of sirens in a predetermined pattern that would alert the residents that “something has happened”. Residents should be educated to seek additional information through all available avenues. That would include local radio stations, public access television, the city web site, KPD facebook page, Kingston Water Department facebook page, KFD facebook page, and by telephone inquiry to government offices. Residents would also be encouraged to spread the word to neighbors, family and friends who live in Kingston. To prepare for such an emergency, I propose that the Emergency Alert System be tested every first Wednesday of the month at 10:00am for a period of 30 minutes. So, for example; every first Wednesday at 10:00am every ten minutes for 30 minutes the Fire house sirens would ring. The various types of media listed above would remind the residents “ today is the first Wednesday of the month, at 10:00am we will be testing the emergency alert system. In the event of a real emergency please take necessary steps to educate yourself of the emergency”. This monthly testing would do two things. 1. It would give the Fire houses the opportunity to practice the system. 2. It educates the public as to what the alarm sounds like, while reminding them that if you hear this and it is NOT the first Wednesday at 10:00am an emergency has occurred.

The determination of an emergency that would justify use of the emergency alert system will be at the discretion of the Mayor. The Mayor, along with information provided by Department Heads will be the first response for all emergencies. For example; In the case of the boil water alert that occurred a few weeks ago, the Mayor would receive the information before the School District. If a boil water alert is issued and the schools will be closing, the Mayor will be the first to know and therefore the person who will contact the Fire Department to begin the emergency alert. This will eliminate another situation where schools are dismissing early and parents have no idea what is going on. In the event that the Mayor is unavailable, the Alderman at Large will make the determination to activate the emergency alert system. If the Alderman At Large is unavailable the Police Chief, then Fire Chief will make the necessary determination. In the event of a real emergency where the Emergency Alert System is activated, the sirens should ring at 10 minute intervals for 1 hour OR for however long the Mayor decides is necessary for the given emergency. The duration of the Emergency Alert System is at the discretion of the Mayor. Once the Emergency Alert System is activated, it is the responsibility of the Mayor’s office to contact the local media, and all Kingston City Government web site and facebook page managers to provide them with the necessary information to inform the public. I hope a system of this type can be created so that the effects of any future emergencies can be minimized.

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