Over the last few meetings, Watonwan County Emergency Management Director Julie Peterson has stood before the County Commissioners Board, to discuss a new emergency information system known as Code Red; its necessity has been the subject of ongoing discussion and debate.
For those uninformed about what Code Red is, Peterson, a former 911 dispatch operator, was able to give a detailed explanation.
“Basically, it’s an alert warning system that we can get information out to our residents or individuals in a very timely manner, and let them be aware that there might be something in their area, or notices of some other event that’s going on, that people need to be aware of, also” explained Peterson.”
Information might include a lost child, inclement weather or possible crime in progress.
“We can do some weather. There is a weather part of Code Red, but it doesn’t appear that the Commissioners are really interested in, because there are some other weather sites that they can go to and get information,” she admitted. “But we can also, through the regular program, let people be aware of, such as in the winter time, if there are going to be people plowing snow, or if there are streets that are backed-up due to some flooding. We can use it for different issues like that.”
During the meeting, the subject of lost children was broached, in regards to what Code Red can do to alert and expedite various timely, high-stake situations.
“It’d be very similar to an Amber Alert,” Peterson noted. “We could put out a notice and send it out to every person that’s either registered or included in the Code Red program, that this child has come up missing, in this particular area; and we can send out just to that particular area, to be on the lookout; or if the child was possibly abducted and we’ve got the description of a car, you could send it out county-wide.”
Even though Watonwan is what some might consider a small county, Peterson thinks the program would thrive, perhaps, even better than in a larger county.
“I think that for a small county, it’s better to have the information,” said Peterson. “It’s easier to get it out. A lot of people may not work, right in St. James and Medelia. They can get the information that they might not have heard because they weren’t in town or they didn’t happen, per chance, to have the radio or the TV on at the time, and this includes home phones and some of our elderly don’t necessarily have the cell phone advantage, so just getting the information on a home phone is a big plus.
Upon being asked what the drawbacks in having Code Red, especially in a smaller town like St. James were, Peterson came up blank.
Page 2 of 2 - “I can’t think of anything,” she exclaimed. “I think any way we can get information out to our residents, as many ways as possible is going to benefit everyone, in the long-run.”