Location: Millinocket, Maine
There's not much a town can do to control Mother Nature. But with a little planning and the right tools, public officials can help make sure local residents are prepared to protect themselves and their properties when nature takes a turn for the worse.
In Millinocket, Maine, that tool is a new mass messaging application developed by Mutare Software. When integrated with the town's existing Internet and telephone networks, Mutare's Enterprise Notification System (ENS) enables town officials to quickly send custom voice and text alerts to targeted groups of residents. It is, according to Manager Eugene Conlogue, a welcome addition to the community's comprehensive emergency response program.
Millinocket's interest in a telephone warning system for its citizenry peaked two years ago when record rainfall caused flooding of the Millinocket Stream, a scenic waterway that winds through the town center. A dam approximately eight miles upstream from town not only controls the flow of water but also generates hydroelectric power for the region. The damss operating company, Brookfield Power, recognized the impact flooding conditions could have on downstream residents and, on behalf of the surrounding communities, obtained a $70,000 grant to purchase the Mutare system. Operating from a single, stand-alone server housed at the regional hospital, the ENS system is shared between Millinocket and the neighboring community of Medway. While ENS can accommodate a multitude of customized contact lists, Millinocket's immediate concern was to provide early warning of potential flooding for residents along the river banks. Towards that end, the town offered all affected homeowners the opportunity to have their contact numbers and/or email addresses included on an ENS list. Should the town receive notice of rising river levels, a local ENS administrator can initiate a broadcast notice to every phone, cell phone, email address and PDA on the selected list. Because ENS is web-based, broadcasts may be initiated any time, from any location, using any phone or web browser.
"Installation was very smooth," says Conlogue. "Mutare stayed with us every step of the way with their quick response to our questions and thorough training for those of us operating the system. Our residents now know that they will be contacted directly, and quickly, in the event that flooding becomes a threat, and they are grateful for the opportunity to take early action."
Since testing ENS's effectiveness, Millinocket is preparing to roll the system out community-wide to address a broader range of emergency situations, such as gas leaks, water outages or natural disasters advisories. Residents may sign up and provide their own contact numbers through the ENS self-populating website. With the flexible ENS lists, administrators are able to group users according to any number of criteria, such as by neighborhood, building or geographic location, so notices can be targeted to specific groups depending on the circumstances.
"We are fortunate that no new flooding has occurred since we installed ENS," says Conlogue, "We also recognize that nature is unpredictable. There is great peace of mind, knowing that we have a quick, reliable, and easy to mange warning system in place, ready to respond, when the unexpected happens."