HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County began using the CodeRED emergency notification system following the Windsor Green Fire in 2013. But county leaders say not enough people are registered.
After that devastating Windsor Green fire, the county realized they had a major issue with not having a quicker way to alert citizens of an emergency. So the county then opted into this nation-wide alert system. It gives the county the ability to deliver pre-recorded emergency phone calls, texts or emails. But you have to register to get them.
They can send these alerts to targeted areas or to everyone who is registered. It's a way for the county to alert a large amount of people very quickly, at a rate of 60,000 calls per hour. To date, the county has more than 100,000 numbers registered. If that number seems big, it's because families can register multiple numbers and locations. So the county says there are still hundreds of thousands of people who haven't registered and need to.
"It's a great tool for us to use in public safety," says Lisa Bourcier, Horry County Spokesperson. "But it also helps to notify the public about what's going on. When you roll up to your home and you see twenty police vehicles and a SWAT vehicle, you want to know what's going on and what you need to do. So we're able to provide that information for those people," says Bourcier.
So far this year, Bourcier says they've already used it for burn warnings, abductions, stand offs, a shooter on the loose, and much more. With CodeRED, the county has the ability to specialize the alert. So say there's a fire in a neighborhood, they'll send it to all registered numbers in that neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods.
Or if there's a standoff, county leaders say they can send it to everyone in that area expect for the house involved in the standoff – so as not to tip off the criminal. And the system allows them to send a follow up alert, so that you'll know once the danger is clear.
All the information you register in the system stays private and is only used for emergency notifications. You can register online through any of the county's web sites. But if you go to HorryCounty.org and click on the Departments tab, scroll down and click on Emergency Management, then you'll see a large button for CodeRED. You can also call the Horry County administration department at (843) 915-5390 to register. Or you can simply download the CodeRED app from the app store for your Android or Apple smart phone.
If you download the app, all you have to do is put in your email address, phone number and a password. This is a nation-wide alert system, so you can see current alerts from all over the country on the interactive map. But to get alert pushes that are specific to you, you can choose in the settings option where you would like to set as your primary location. And the app is based on your geo location, so alerts will update based on wherever you go. You can also change how wide a radius you want to get alerts from in the settings.
"The system has added some additional features this year," says Bourcier. "So you can add multiple addresses and multiple phone numbers. So say you have a house that you want to make sure you get any notifications regarding your home. But if your mother lives 20 miles down the road, you can also put in her address and keep notifications for that property as well."
The county is urging literally everyone to sign up in some way. So that means individual land lines or cell phones, businesses, anyone who has changed their number or address in the last year, anyone who uses their cell phone as their primary number, and anyone who's number is unlisted. If you have a vacation property here but live out of state, the alerts are a great way to keep in touch. And if you have multiple cell phone numbers in one family, you can register all of those at once.