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Armstrong County approves deal to provide emergency alerts

| Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, 2:31 a.m.

Armstrong County residents will receive almost instant notifications during emergencies by mid-January.

The Armstrong County commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved a three-year contract with Airbus DS Communications of Pittsburgh. The company will provide emergency alerts to residents throughout the region through telephone, text and email messages.

“We'll be able be able to send landline calls to residents in the county or any geographical area we choose, without residents having to register,” said 911 coordinator Ron Baustert. “They can also go in and register for email or cellphone notifications in the very near future.”

County 911 staff will be able to use the system to alert residents of a variety of emergencies, such as flooding, Amber Alerts or lockdowns at schools.

The county will pay the company $23,400 for the first year of service, and $21,500 per year for the final two years of the contract, according to Baustert.

County officials' first discussion of a warning system happened during a jail oversight board meeting in August, after Robert Crissman Jr., a 38-year-old jail inmate from Boggs, walked out of the jail July 30 and allegedly killed Rayburn resident Tammy Long.

Baustert said officials are buying a listing of every registered landline through Windstream for about $2,300, which works out to be about 5 cents per phone number.

Residents who would like to receive alerts through their cellphones or email, or through a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephone service, such as those provided by Comcast, will have to register their through the county's website.

Officials plan to start a registration website near the end of this month, Baustert said.

Commissioner Bob Bower said county officials are working on developing a paper registration form for cellphone users who may not have computer access.

“I'd like to see us have a form they could fill out and just mail in,” Bower said.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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