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Suffolk County greets hurricane season with updated alerting system

Maria Korolov | May 19, 2017
Long Island's Suffolk County is improving its emergency communications for National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

The county began making plans to switch to a new system several years ago, and began rolling out the Rave platform in 2011, just in time for Hurricane Irene.

"We were actually in beta test mode, and I made a command decision to turn it on," said Vetter.

Since then, the county has been upgrading the system or adding new functionality every 14 to 16 months, he said.

In 2012, just in time for Hurricane Sandy, the county rolled out Rave's Smart911 system, which automatically brings up residents' profiles during 911 calls.

During Winter Storm Nemo in 2013, the county added functionality that allowed them to send update texts to people stuck in their cars that the county was still working on getting them help.

"We told them, this is what's happening, we're removing the most vulnerable first -- the cars that have no fuel, no heat, that have elderly or the young, whatever it was," he said.

Vetter said he could send out these messages from anywhere he was, as long as there was an internet connection, with no delays.

Today, there are over 48,000 profiles of Suffolk County residents in the Rave system.

And the profiles are automatically updated when participants interact with the system, and if there are no interactions, it automatically sends out email verification and places robocalls.

There are no delays. As profiles are added or updated, residents are immediately in the system, and instantly begin receiving emergency alerts and information.

Since location information is built in, the county can send out very specific alerts, very quickly. People living in a flood zone can get important information about preventing flood damage. Those connected to a particular water main that was damaged can get an alert that they need to boil their drinking water.

"With the Rave messaging, I have the ability to send a message any time I want," he said. "We use it for all kinds of things. We're doing 80,000 text messages a day out of the Rave system, for both emergencies and non-emergencies."

Next week, the county is adding the ability to respond to an active killer situation, adding in every county employee and their work locations and mobile contact information.


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