BUTLER COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – When emergency strikes, people often call into dispatch centers to find out what’s going on; in turn plugging up the lines while a disaster is happening.
With Wednesday’s news that an inmate escaped from Winfield Correctional Facility, Butler County Sheriff’s Office was able to alert people in the Douglass area to be cognizant of search efforts going on using the Reverse 911 system.
“We go on and select an area on a map and prerecorded a message that goes out, to citizens and based on the map, it selects landlines that are automatically pulled through AT&T database. Everyone with cell phones has to register their phone on the system,” Butler County 911 assistant director Jeremy Seglem said.
Reverse 911 has been in use in Butler County since 2001 when Frontier Refinery helped purchase it with Butler County Sheriff’s office. Since then, several system upgrades and a better understanding of how the system works has led to several successful efforts of alerting the public of dangers or calming fears after a situation expires.
Wednesday’s use of the system included alerting people in a two-mile radius of Douglass of search efforts as well as when the search was over. It’s also been used to locate missing children, elderly people and those in the evacuation zone of a fire.
“I can recall one time we had a missing child and Reverse 911 actually worked and he was at a neighbor’s house when they received the phone call,” Seglem said.
The system is tax-payer funded and is used by hundreds of landlines in Butler County. An extra step is required to register cell phones. To register yours, visit http://www.bucoks.com/ and follow the steps to register your phone to alert you of dangers in the area.
Sheriff Kelly Herzet encourages residents to register for the system, citing yesterday’s two uses of the system: one to alert people of the search near the Douglass area, and once to alert them it was over.
“People were getting off work and heading home and then they could get that notification that hey, it’s okay to go home and spend time with the family and not have to worry about this escapee being out and not being caught,” Herzet said.