The sign up form for the emergency notification system, accessible from www.osageco.org.

Jeremy Gaston | Reporter

The months-long process of preparing and testing an emergency notification system for Osage County is now complete and ready to go.

The system is designed to notify residents by phone, e-mail or SMS message whenever there is an emergency situation in their area. To be notified, users need only to add themselves to the calling pool.

“I think it’ll work quite well if people sign up,” said Osage County Emergency Management Director Bryce Romine. “It’s basically the same system schools have been using, same basic ideas. We’re not forcing people to sign up; it’s on their own. If you want the benefit, were offering it to you.”

The opt-in system is just weeks old, gathering just over 100 sign ups, but Romine had held off debuting the system until he was certain it was ready.

“I’ve been kind of holding off until we made sure everything has been working right,” Romine said.

The system was unveiled with the redesign of the county’s web site (www.osageco.org) and further publicized with flyers distributed around the county.

“I’ve talked to the weather spotter class and the schools in Osage City,” Romine said. “I’ve distributed brochures to each of the cities, schools, and all the fire districts. The sheriff’s office will also distribute brochures as they go to county fairs and local events. They meet a lot of people.”

The system is managed by the emergency management and sheriff’s departments, allowing either entity to broadcast a message quickly and publicly from any computer.

“It’s amazing, it really is,” Romine said. “It gives us another way for any of the county entities to notify their people, too. We go to a screen, type a message real quick, tell who we want to send it to and send it.”

The system also allows messages to be broadcast to specific groups, for instance, to notify volunteer firefighters of an emergency call.

Public messages will be broadcast by alert levels.

• Red Alerts will be sent to all listed phone numbers, e-mails and SMS devices, and limited to emergency notifications (such as tornado warnings, sever weather warnings, and law enforcement emergencies.)

• Orange Alerts will be sent to the first and second listed numbers, along with e-mail and SMS, and include situations such as school lockdowns and Amber Alerts.

• Yellow Alerts will be sent to the first phone numbers, e-mail address and SMS numbers. It will include traffic advisories and general county information.

The alerts trickle down from Homeland Security, which supplied a regional grant to develop the system. Osage County was included in the Northeast Kansas region, and has been working on getting the system in place since January.

“Once the contract was signed, all we had to do was the legwork with the company, which involved contacting the company and getting information set up for Osage County,” Romine said. “They did 99 percent of the work, and provided some training.”

After months of preparation, the system is ready to go (a test of the system Tuesday afternoon provided a message to the number provided in about 20 seconds). The system only needs numbers to become more effective.

Romine encourages those who are interested to sign up (see sidebar: “Sign up to be notified.”)

“I think we’re going to be real happy with it,” Romine said. “I think the public should be real happy with it, too.”

For more information on the notification system, call Romine at the emergency Management Office between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m. weekdays at (785) 828-3323, or the Osage County Sheriff’s Office at (785) 828-4657.