ASHEBORO, N.C. – Technology may allow you to locate nearby restaurants through your phone or get a satellite picture of your neighbor’s yard but in Randolph County don’t expect it to help emergency operators alert you to an immediate threat in your neighborhood.
It’s been five years since Randolph County Emergency Services leaders have had the ability to send out a reverse phone call to alert citizens in the event of evacuations or violent crimes near schools.
“If we have situations where we would have used a reverse calling system it adds a lot more man power if we have to go door-to-door for example and speak to residents so it takes a lot of labor intensive work to get the word out,” said Donovan Davis, director of emergency services in Randolph County.
In 2010, software for the program became out of date and an upgrade wasn’t possible because the vendor who sold the county the equipment was no longer in business. Davis said he’s asked county commissioners for $40,000 each year since to replace the system but there have been higher priorities for the county.
“We feel like things that we've done by adding ambulances and paramedics and 911 operators to provide our day-to-day services -- that was more important or continues to be more important,” said Davis.
Davis said social media sites like Facebook and Twitter help them spread the word about major events. The county is also linked to Nixle, a community message service that more than 3,000 people have signed up for.
Davis said another worry is that reverse calling programs rely on landline information for phones and addresses.
“The trend that we've seen in the last 5, 6, 7 years is that people are no longer carrying a landline at their home and moving to a cell service as their primary means of communication, but many people are preferring to go with just cellular service,” said Davis.
Still, Davis said the addition could only help in an emergency when seconds matter.
“I do believe the public expects us to have this kind of system to be notified when there's a major disaster or emergency going on in their community,” said Davis. “It is beneficial.”