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Ask Us: What’s the status of city-county emergency alert system?

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

More than a year since its rollout, city and county officials say a unified emergency alert system known as RoCo Alerts has been better and more functional than the separate methods previous used by the two governments.

County and city government rolled out the new notification system using a platform called Everbridge in late 2019 and early 2020 as a replacement for the city’s use of Nixle and the county’s use of Code Red. A reader asked for an update about the system and asked why there hadn’t been any notifications sent out recently.

T.J. Brown, Emergency Management division chief, said a lack of notifications could be because there haven’t been any alert-worthy events near the person’s listed residence recently. Though, Brown said, the previous few months also haven’t been a busy time for alerts.

“The number of notifications has been pretty low,” he said.

One recent use in March was to notify people about a controlled burn being conducted by the Forestry Service. In a few missing person cases, Brown said, staff members were preparing a notification when the person was found.

Linda McElroy, the city’s communications director, said the new notification platform is particularly good about allowing workers to draw specific shapes or set boundaries over an area where a notification needs to be sent. The city of Salisbury’s limits is one of the pre-drawn shapes uploaded to the system.

Giving an example of an emergency alert, Brown said workers can set a circular radius around a point in the county to send a notification.

While figures weren’t immediately available, the city’s portion of the cost for the combined system is lower than Nixle, McElroy said.

Early on in the alert system’s life, city and county officials were forced to issue an apology after an alert about a missing 16-year-old was sent at 1 a.m. Registered users received multiple telephone calls and text messages about the teen’s disappearance. The city responded to say an alert would not be sent at those hours again unless there was a significant threat to life.

To sign up for the alert system or update your information, go to rowancountync.gov/rocoalerts.

City working to clean up debris from creek

Salisbury Public Works staff are advising people against remove fallen trees and debris from waterways.

A reader asked about who is responsible for trash and debris in water next to the Salisbury Greenway in the Meadowbrook neighborhood. Michael Hanna, administrative services manager, said city staff are working with contractors to get the set of fallen trees and trash removed from the creek.

Hanna said water runoff from rain carried trash to the creek from the sides of roads and other surfaces. Fallen trees in the creek have acted like a trash-collecting device and stopped the trash in its tracks.

“Although we love and encourage citizen involvement in helping keep our waterways clear, I would not recommend removing this trash due to the danger and instability of the fallen trees,” Hanna said.

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