CodeRed coming to Chisago County this year

System in Washington County has had positive results

Ben Montzka
Guest Columnist

This month Chisago County Sheriff’s personnel will begin training on the new CodeRed® safety notification system. This is a web-based service that allows county and city officials to reach thousands of citizens in just a few minutes to warn them of imminent danger.

The warnings can be sent instantly to land line phones, cell phones, e-mail and text messaging. CodeRED® operators can map out specific areas of the county to receive a warning. Alerts might be sent in the event of severe weather, flash floods, fires, escaped prisoners, burglaries, and other emergency situations.

CodeRed™ is up and running right now, but we are in the process of compiling a list of phone numbers from public records.

We realize this will not include very many cell phones, so starting in May, citizens will have an opportunity to go to the Chisago County website at www.co.chisago.mn.us and enter a phone number and/or e-mail address.

Phone numbers and e-mail addresses will be kept private and will not be used for any purpose other than the emergency warning system. Citizens who do not wish to receive the alerts will be able to opt out.

I have been following the progress of CodeRED® since they launched it a year ago in Washington County. Here are some recent examples of how the system has served Washington County residents in potential danger.

In late March, a vulnerable adult wandered away from a senior center in Mahtomedi. She was not wearing her safety bracelet. The sheriff’s office was notified and quickly sent out a CodeRED® alert to residents in the area.

Within three minutes, a citizen who received the alert spotted the woman and notified the sheriff’s office. The woman was reunited with her family just 45 minutes after she went missing.

On Friday two weeks ago, the Forest Lake Police Department sent out a CodeRED® alert to homeowners along Highway 97 between Forest Lake and Scandia. The alert involved a series of daytime burglaries in that area.

The message included a detailed description of a suspect and his vehicle. On the Monday following the Friday alert, a citizen who received the alert spotted the vehicle parked at a residence in Scandia, with the trunk open and the engine running.

The citizen called authorities, who responded immediately, found the suspect still inside the home, and arrested him.

I am impressed with these reports from our neighbor county, and eagerly anticipate implementing CodeRED™ in Chisago County.

I believe it is a very cost effective way to help keep our county residents safe in the event of threats, whether from nature or human actions such as terrorism or crime.

We are able to pay the entire cost of launching this program from our 2012 general fund, which is based on a county levy that has not risen since 2009.

I am sure most of my constituents will want to be included on the CodeRED® alert list. If you have a standard land line you will probably already be on the list, but once the website link is up and running in May, you might want to check to make sure.

Most cell phones and e-mail addresses will not initially be on the list, so you will need to add them. Please watch local media for an announcement as to when the CodeRED® website will be in operation, or check the county website in May.

I am going to take advantage of this system for myself and my family, and I encourage readers to do the same.

Chisago County Commissioner Ben Montzka represents Stacy, Wyoming and part of Chisago City. He can be reached at bjmontz@co.chisago.mn.us or 651-462-4200.

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