Cellphone users urged to join updated emergency warning system
CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
SPICEWOOD — As the storm season looms, officials have launched an updated emergency notification system to relay warnings and alerts to more residents about potential disaster.
Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) unveiled WarnCentralTexas.org to expand its emergency calling database and coax more cellphone users into the system.
The 10-county region within the system includes Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties.
“The timing of this is very appropriate since it comes right on the heels of the anniversary of the Blanco River flood that affected the folks in Blanco and Hays (counties) downstream,” said Burnet County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery.
This Memorial Day weekend marks the holiday anniversary of the devastating flood, which killed 12 people, injured several others, destroyed thousands of homes and damaged infrastructure and roads.
In the same month last year, heavy rains swamped the Spicewood area, leading to at least one swiftwater rescue, several road closures and some storm damage.
Approximately 45,000 users are registered in the former CAPCOG robo-call system, which automatically rolls those participants into the new system with added amenities and features.
“The tool has always been useful, but its ability to reach residents continues to decline as more and more people (switch) to cellphone-only household,” Dockery said. “We’re missing a lot of folks. We need them to go to this website so they can get registered.”
Previous features limited how the system notified residents.
“Typically, you received an automated robo-call with an emergency message attached to it,” he said. “With WarnCentralTexas.org, if you happen to be in an outlying area where your cell service may be compromised but yet you can still receive text messages, you can now receive a message as well as a phone call.”
Once online, participants can register email addresses and multiple cellphone numbers connected to various private residences. Options include alerts via email, phone calls and/or text messages.
“It could be when residents need to evacuate their homes during floods or maybe fire events. It could be taking shelter during inclement weather, severe weather,” Dockery said. “If there’s nearby hazardous spills, tied to a police manhunt or something as simple as a boil water notice or prolonged power outage.”
To register, go to WarnCentralTexas.org. Numbers on caller IDs will read (866) 419-5000 for emergency alerts, (855) 969-4363 for community alerts or (800) 566-9780 for weather warnings.