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Emergency mass notification system contract approved


Last updated 8/2/2007 at Noon

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Twenty First Century Communications for an emergency mass notification system.

The supervisors’ 5-0 vote July 24 approves a contract for a term of three years, with one option year and up to an additional six months if needed. The contract can be amended to reflect service and funding changes upon approval of the director of the county’s Office of Emergency Services.

“I’m very pleased today that we’re taking the first step towards a better and faster system,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts. “Emergency preparedness is one of the most if not the most critical functions of county government.”

The need to notify community residents of an emergency initially resulted in a “Reverse 911” system, although past emergencies have demonstrated that downed phone lines, overloaded phone circuits, and residents with cell phones but no landline create vulnerabilities in the system. The new system has the capability to send notices by electronic mail, pagers, faxes, instant messengers, and personal digital assistants as well as telephones. The supervisors’ approval of the contract also allows the Office of Emergency Services to begin work on building the capability for residents to register cell phones, other phone lines, and e-mail addresses for notification.

“It is going to greatly improve the safety of all residents in this region,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “This is a huge leap forward into the future to better protect lives and property.”

The new system also has the capability to transmit approximately 400,000 messages per hour. “In just a matter of three hours we will be able to notify every household in the county,” said Supervisor Greg Cox.

The system can also recognize busy signals and call back, and caller ID systems will note that the dialing number is that of the emergency notification system.

In November 2006 the supervisors had authorized the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to issue competitive solicitations for a mass emergency notification system using new technology and to return to the board with a specific recommendation. A request for proposals was issued in December 2006. Representatives from county departments and from the cities of San Diego and Escondido comprised a selection committee.

The contract with Twenty First Century Communications includes an up-front cost of $200,000 which includes the licensing fee, vendor-provided training, first-year maintenance, and system construction. The cost of notification, depending on the type and length of message, ranges from three to ten cents per call. The subsequent annual maintenance cost is estimated at $19,000.

“I am basically thrilled at the deal that was put together,” Jacob said.

“I look forward to the system’s implementation in September,” Cox said.


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