HAMILTON — The system is less than a week old, but already more than 1,000 residents have signed up for Ravalli County's new emergency alert system and with the areas past experiences with fires, floods and snow local authorities are hoping a majority of people will follow suit.
While the Bitterroot is a beautiful place to live, residents can also be on the edge of danger -- especially with the potential to be surrounded by wildfire. That's been a problem for emergency managers, with a population that may still be using land lines, or trying to get a cell signal.
"A significant amount of people that do not have a landline," noted Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton. "So, they operate just off their cell phones, of electronic or smart devices of some kind."
That's where the new Hyper-Reach system comes in, replacing an earlier system that had a number of problems. Hyper-Reach allows people to visit the county's web site and sign up to receive alerts -- including to land line phones, specific to their neighborhood.
"So, to have the ability to hit an email, a text message, a land line and then with an app notification on top of it," explained Holton." And then also be able to geo-target certain areas, so that somebody that lives in Florence isn't getting an alert that just does not matter to them. But it does in Sula."
"All of our land line phones are already registered with the system for voice calls for very severe emergency situation incidents," added Ravalli County Emergency Management Director Erik Hoover. "But you can also register mobile phones and emails to your home address to get notifications on those devices as well."
Sheriff Holton says the new alert system will be especially useful during fire season, but also says it's going to be a great tool for emergency managers to use year round.
"Absolutely. Last February would have been a great opportunity to reach out to people for weather conditions, just those alerts and what's going on," Holton said.
"The Bitterroot River is going to fill up. It's going to flood. Everybody knows that. That's not news. It's the targeted areas where streams and tributaries are overflowing into individual neighborhoods," he added.
Hyper-Reach also solves the problem of reaching part-time Bitterroot residents -- and even travelers visiting the valley.
"It's easy to try and identify the folks that live in our community, but we get a lot of visitors throughout the year really. And we don't want to let those people fall through the cracks with emergency information if there's a way we can get it out to them," Hoover told MTN News.
Holton adds the system is private, and secure, "the whole target for this is to provide notifications to keep people safe. I mean really give them the information they need to really keep themselves safe."
If you have a Ravalli County address, or you want to be alerted to keep a relative safe in the valley, you can sign up now at the Ravalli County website. Click here for more information or call (406) 215-1909.