After hearing from Kirkland residents alarmed by an early morning “reverse 9-1-1” call in the recent case of a missing elderly man, Kirkland police have issued a public service announcement about the system to alert the community to emergencies or urgent public safety issues.
The Kirkland police and fire departments use a regional dispatch center called NORCOM, which utilizes a software program called the Community Telephone Emergency Notification System or “reverse 9-1-1,” to send urgent messages to selected phone numbers in a specific area.
Just before 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 9, a reverse 9-1-1 call was sent to Kirkland residents as rescue personnel searched for an elderly man missing from a Juanita care center, fearing for his safety as temperatures dipped. The man was found safe in Seattle that night, by a resident who had seen media reports
Kirkland Patch received a few emails and comments from residents who were awakened and found the call unsettling, and the Kirkland Police Department received more.
One wrote that “alarming an entire community during the middle of the night doesn't seem an appropriate response.” Another posted a comment on the Kirkland Patch story about the missing man saying: “What did they expect us to do, go out and look for him in our yard in our pajamas?”
A relative of the man later responded: “At 33 degrees it was a life saving request. Sorry to have bothered you... I sure hope you never have to go through a night of worry like we did.”
Kirkland police later explained that the reverse 9-1-1 call had been requested by King County Search & Rescue, which had some 60 people out looking for the man late into the night.
At any rate, the Kirkland Police Department now wants to spread the word about how the system works, how you can add your number to the program, or opt out.
“Since we received so many calls after the last incident with the elderly man, we felt it important to get some information out,” said Kirkland police spokesman Lt. Mike Murray.
Here is the full Kirkland Police Department public service announcement about the reverse 9-1-1 system:
REVERSE 9-1-1 SYSTEM
The City of Kirkland is a participating member of NORCOM* which is a regional dispatch center located in Bellevue, Washington. NORCOM uses a software program called Community Telephone Emergency Notification System, sometimes called Reverse 9-1-1, to send urgent messages to selected phone numbers based on the geographic location of a resident’s phone carrier billing address. The system allows for a city-wide notification or can target specific phone numbers in a designated area. Phone numbers (excluding unlisted numbers) are supplied by phone companies and updated annually. If you have an unlisted phone number, you can register at www.norcom.org.
The Benefits of a Reverse 9-1-1
This system has the potential to reach thousands of phone numbers within a fairly short period of time. The Kirkland Police Department has activated the system as a means to reach residents in cases where the public needs to be notified immediately of a situation or their help is needed urgently. A notification may be sent – even during inconvenient hours – to help find a missing adult or child who may have a serious health condition or is in serious danger. In the event of a major disaster and the phone system is working, important public safety messages can be sent out via this system that could advise residents of most damaged areas and evacuation information.
This system was utilized recently in an effort to get the public’s help in locating a missing elderly male who suffered from dementia. With the temperatures dropping, the system was activated so that every tool available to the police department was utilized. The gentleman was safely returned later that evening.
What You May See and Hear on Your Phone
The system pushes out a pre-recorded message giving emergency instructions to whoever receives the message. All outbound recorded messages will be brief and to the point. A message will be from thirty (30) to sixty (60) seconds in length and will begin with the statement: "This is the Kirkland Police Department with a recorded message." All outbound messages will include a phone number for residents to call if they have questions about the message or information to provide. Because the call is initiated from NORCOM which is located in Bellevue, Washington, the prefix is not Kirkland-based.
To Learn More or for Assistance
Learn more about the Reverse 9-1-1 system used by NORCOM or to add or, update your phone number to receive notifications or to delete your phone number, visit www.norcom.org or call 425-577-5656.
*Northeast King County Regional Public Safety Communications Agency