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Reverse 911 scores well on test

NORTH CANAAN — Phones were ringing all over town on the evening of Dec. 17. And town residents may have been wondering exactly what was going on.

It was a test, only a test, of the town’s new “reverse 911” system.

First Selectman Douglas Humes waited at Town Hall that evening to see if anyone would phone his office with questions.

“There were some people who called back. They wanted to know if I’d just called them,” he reported.

It was Humes’ voice they heard all right, identifying himself in a recording and reciting the familiar phrasing of the alert most commonly heard on television and radio. The recording  advises that “if this had been an actual emergency ...”

The FCC’s Emergency Broadcast System was never used for a national emergency. It was expanded after many years to be used for localized weather and other emergencies. The Reverse 911 notification system takes that further, by cataloging town residents into subgroups.

“For instance, if something was happening at the school, the principal could activate the system, and just parents would be called,” Humes explained in an interview with The Lakeville Journal. “They could be told what is going on and told not to come to the school.”

The test on Dec. 17 was deemed a success. The calls, made by a computer, confirmed numbers listed in the emergency 911 system. It also identified some minor potential problems, such as answering machines with lengthy outgoing messages.

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