Callaway County residents who want to be notified of severe weather, natural disasters and other emergencies will need to re-enroll for the service.
Michelle Kidwell, Callaway County emergency management director, said the county has switched to a new notification model, the Everbridge System for Citizen Alerts, which she wrote in a press release will "help save lives and manage critical activities."
Like the previous system, Everbridge will notify county residents of emergencies using a range of methods including cellphones, land lines, email and text messaging.
Western District Commissioner Doc Kritzer said local officials decided to make the switch because they were not satisfied with the old company's ability to provide those services.
He said Callaway officials met last year with officials from Ameren electric company as well as Montgomery and Osage counties, who also were dissatisfied with their notification systems, to discuss their options. They eventually chose Everbridge, which had recently been adopted by Audrain County.
"(Everbridge) met a lot of criteria we were wanting," Kritzer said. "We can send an emergency response within 30 minutes if we have a natural disaster coming, and we were able to create different groups, so if a tornado or severe weather is coming we don't have to send the message to everyone in the county, we can follow the path of where the storm is going and send a message to people in the affected area.
"It's a little more expensive, but not much, and Ameren helped with some of that expense - they've been a very good partner in all of this."
He said the new system will attempt to dial three times and then will leave a message regarding the emergency. One of the advantages with Everbridge, Kritzer added, is that it will give officials a report regarding how many of the contacts on the list received the call and how many did not answer, "so we can evaluate it and figure out where to do better next time."
Area residents must opt in to the 911 database for automatic notifications regarding emergency weather alerts, road closures, and water and utility issues. Officials were not able to transfer the old data over to the new Everbridge system, so even residents who were previously enrolled in the notification system with have to sign up again.
According to a press release, individuals may opt in by visiting the county website at www.callawaycounty.org and clicking on the citizens' alert button at the top of the page.
"We prefer people go to the website, but if not they can also call 573-592-2480 and if necessary we can add that information," Kritzer said.