Horry Co. officials urge citizens to sign up for Code Red alert system

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Code Red is a high speed notification system that allows the county to send pre-recorded messages in case of an emergency. WMBF News now knows the county has more than 140,000 numbers in the system.

Most of those numbers were already listed with Horry County addresses and were placed into the system automatically. But a little more than 10,000 numbers were added in voluntarily by people signing up on the website. There are more than 400 business numbers listed as well.

WMBF News asked county officials, and they say it's hard to tell exactly how many people are connected to Code Red and how. But they're continuing to promote awareness about Code Red to make sure people are connected in the best way. Residents can sign up to get more notifications like text messages, email alerts, or severe weather notifications, or to add other numbers like cell phones.

If a resident hasn't signed up, then the county will only send an emergency message to the number that's listed, which may not be the best way to reach a household. Horry County Emergency Management Director Randy Webster wants to make sure they have all the information they need so people can get the message.

"Makes it that much better of a system and people can be more notified, and notified in different ways," explained Webster. "And so overall the Code Red system has a lot to offer."

Webster says Horry County police have used it the most since the system went live in September. When the phone rings, it's because the police department uses the system in two main ways-- first to inform residents on what's going on. This is especially true in situations where police have to call out the SWAT team, bloodhounds, or negotiations team. The second reason is to give the information on suspects on the loose in the area so residents can be an extra set of eyes and ears to call 9-1-1 if there's anything suspicious.

Police have used it a couple of times already. Last month, when there was an armed robbery at a business off of Highway 501, it was used to reach more than 1,000 people who were within 2 miles of that area. Horry County Fire Rescue has picked up the phone and used it too, like when they notified Carolina Forest homeowners last month of a wildfire that was just feet away from touching homes.

Lt. Robert Kegler with Horry County Police says the system gives public safety officials much-needed direct access in an emergency.

"People expect instant notification and we want to give it to them the best that we can," Kegler said. "If we get ourselves into a particular incident or situation where Code Red can be utilized in order to let people know, we're going to use it."

Public safety officials also use it to let people know about neighborhood crime meetings and if they are doing emergency drills or training in an area. There will be an informational meeting on Code Red at the South Strand Recreation Center Thursday at 7p.m.

Horry County residents can sign up for Code Red, select which warnings they want to receive, and how here:

Copyright 2013 WMBF News. All rights reserved.