PORTAGE | Getting the word out when there is an emergency to a city of some 36,000 isn't easy.
The city of Portage, however, has recently approved initiating an all-call system that will be able to place calls to the more than 12,000 household landlines in 15 minutes.
The Redevelopment Commission last week approved funding a contract with Blackboard Connection to provide an all-call service to the city. The annual cost is $20,317.
Assistant Fire Chief Joe Calhoun led the investigation into establishing an all-call system in Portage and told the commission the system will be able to provide emergency notifications or general communications to all residents or can be focused down to a specific geographic area or even interest group.
The company will import listed land lines of all residents and businesses in the city, Calhoun said. Residents will then have a chance to go online and register their unlisted land line number, cellphone numbers for calls or texts and their email addresses if they choose. Those who do not have access to the Internet will be able to visit various city offices to provide the information.
There is no cost to residents to use the system.
Residents not interested in the service will be able to opt out, but Calhoun said he will urge people not to opt out of the service.
"We plan not to over use it. There are so many options in which it can be used to supply information to residents," he said.
The system can be designed to notify residents of anything from an emergency weather warning to broken water line, ongoing police incident, a change in trash pick up or upcoming park soccer league sign ups. What people want to be notified about will be up to the individuals, he said.
The system should be operational by the end of the year. Then, Calhoun said, they will undertake a campaign to inform residents of how they can use the system.
While the system, which is also used by the city of Hobart, will only cover residents living within the Portage city limits, Calhoun said there is a possibility to expand its use to the township and even county if those entities are interested in participating.