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New Ravalli Sheriff's app targets everything from emergencies to public health

Ravalli App
Posted at 3:20 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 19:36:55-04

Ravalli County authorities are anxious to use the county's latest emergency alert system, saying it's going to make notifications that much more efficient.

But they say it also depends on people signing up for the new app.

Ravalli County was one of the first to venture into using a smartphone app, and the timing couldn't have been more appropriate, as it rolled out right as the Roaring Lion Fire was blowing up.

Since then, the county has made other improvements, like the Hyper-Reach notification system. Now, it's a new app that allows residents to pick which alerts they need to see.

"Instead of getting every notification that we push, which is the way the old app worked, was either got all of them, or none of them," said Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton. "This way they don't get bothered if they don't want road or weather alerts, they don't have to get those, but they do want evacuation alerts, they'll get all of those.

It's not just fires, but other emergencies too. I remember when the Corvallis fire station here was a hub of activity a few years ago as residents scrambled to deal with flash flooding the new warning systems will help there too.

Sheriff Holton says that's critical, with fewer people using landlines.

"There's less and less landlines all the time where people are working with their cell phones and really, that's what they spend their time on. So I think we're doing a much better job now than we ever have in the past, and it's simply because of technology we can push a lot of information, get it to people really rapidly versus door to door deputies driving up and down roads to give the same information." - Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton

But the app has an added bonus. After the past two years showed problems in getting out health alerts and answering tons of questions without having the staff to answer, Ravalli County Health was added to the app.

"We just didn't have the people or the resources to answer every single one of those phone calls that came in," Ravalli County Public Health Director Tiffany Webber said. "A lot of times we continue to get phone calls of people that are looking for environmental health or the SNAP food program, or other things that aren't us.

"So this was kind of a great opportunity for us to be featured on the Sheriff's app where we can get those resources out to people," Webber continued.

That's giving the health department a direct path to inform residents.

"We, from time to time might get recalls. We had a recall on baby formula. It was important to get that information out. We want to let people know that ticks are out and that we're starting to already see illnesses from that. Just to advise people where those things are happening at." - Ravalli County Public Health Director Tiffany Webber

Holton says the app has room for crime prevention too.

"The real goal here is to have an interactive capability with the community," Holton said. "The new app has the ability to send a tip that will come right to my 911 center right to my command staff or my detectives. It can upload photos of suspicious vehicles in their neighborhood.

"And that's all things we need to do our jobs. If we can stop a suspicious vehicle before it becomes a burglary, that's a success," Holton continued.

The app is a free download from any phone. Just look for the updated version with the "black" logo.