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Fire provides opportunity to test emergency Code Red

Emergency Services Director Jason Llewelyn hears that the prescribed fire is a 'go' during Monday's teleconference.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Monday, County Emergency Services Director Jason Llewelyn got the word via teleconference in his office: "It looks like we have a major 'go' here!"

The speaker was Steve Rutter, northeast area fire management officer in charge of the prescribed fire near Bruin Point. He was announcing that all the factors were in place to launch the series of fires that would clear nearly 1,000 acres of conifers.

That would mean road closures in and near the planned blazes, and smoke rising from the high country. Both are public safety concerns, and Llewelyn is responsible for informing the population likely to be affected.

Here was an opportunity for the first major test of the Code Red notification system. Llewelyn explained that the computerized system can dial up to 30,000 phones an hour. It can keep track of the number of answers, busy signals, answering machine messages delivered, and no answer responses.

One mouse click can produce a list numbers and addresses that did not pick up the phone. In case of a major emergency, that tracking ability would cut the work load for responders by limiting the number of personal visitations needed to make sure every household is informed, he said.

The system also enables Emergency Services to target its calling area. In this case, Llewelyn decided on all of Carbon County, plus a zone extending ten miles from the county borders. After recording the message from Sheriff James Cordova, Llewelyn put Code Red to work.

One finding of the test: the computer system outraces the switching capacity of Emery Telcom. Some 7,900 calls were placed, but it took longer than the 15 or 20 minutes it would have taken if the system had run at full speed.

Llewelyn stressed that it is important for people to notify Emergency Services of phone number changes to keep the system up to date. The system does not need to know any more information than is listed in any phone book, and what information is in the database is not released or shared outside the department.

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