WARN System Up Next Month

WINSTED — Within the next month, emergency services and town officials will have a new way to communicate important information to the residents and businesses in Winsted.

Funded by homeland security grant money, the town of Winchester has purchased the WARN system and plans to have it fully operational by the end of February.

Wide Area Rapid Notification (WARN) is an emergency alert system that many municipalities have recently adapted. Used to notify residents in a wide range of situations, from weather alerts to evacuations, the system is essentially a reverse 911 program. Whereas now, when you have a problem, you can call 911, with the new system 911 will be able to call you.

"It contacts all town residents in times of an emergency," said Winsted Fire Chief Robert Shopey II.

Shopey said an example of when the WARN system may be used is if there was a chemical spill in town and residents need to remain in their homes. Instead of opening up the phone book and making phone calls, a message could quickly be recorded and sent out to a specific neighborhood or the entire town.

"Within seconds, everyone’s phone would ring at the same time and would receive the same message," said Shopey.

Fire and Police training for on the WARN system has already been completed and Shopey said the company is in the process of collecting contact information for all the residents and businesses in town.

At some point residents will be able to update contact information with WARN and provide cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses as a secondary way of receiving important information should the system be activated; however, Shopey is not yet clear on how and when that will take place.

"I see this as a positive thing for everyone. We are actually going to have some type of communication to alert [residents] and direct them when there is some sort of problem," said Shopey.

While some towns use the WARN system to notify residents of school closures, special meetings and even a reminder to vote, Shopey said the plan is not to do that in Winsted. However, the schools are looking into a system to notify of early dismissals and other events important to parents.

"Right now the intention is to only use it for emergency situations. We don’t want people to think of it as an unimportant phone call and not answer it," said Shopey.

The system is expected to be fully functional by the end of next month and will be in place for at least the next three years.

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