Rowan County and City of Salisbury staff have few communication tools at their disposal to push emergency messages to the community. But none are more effective than RoCo Alerts. This new program has allowed us to send notifications to a large group of people at once for events such as severe weather, missing elderly residents, chemical spills, and lost children. If necessary, we are able to reach just over 55,000 residents between landline telephones, cell phones and email. While cell phone and email addresses are included via opt-ins, landline telephone numbers are included from the telephone company. Think of it as a reverse 911 call to your home telephone.
On Friday, April 17, the RoCo Alerts team received a telephone call about Gabriel Wyck, a missing 16-year old who presumably ran away from home earlier in the day. We felt that the most efficient way to send this notice was to formulate a RoCo Alert, even given the late time frame. Typically, a one-time text alert is sent. That did not happen in this case.
A hiccup in the system caused many residents to receive multiple telephone calls and text messages regarding this missing child. For this, we apologize. Yes, it was frustrating. Yes, people were awakened from their sleep. And yes, we are implementing plans to keep this from happening again, unless it is a major emergency event, such as a tornado or another life-safety situation. We will also weigh time of day versus immediacy of the event. If you do receive this type of alert in the future, please allow the call to play through which will end the cycle of telephone calls.
RoCo Alerts are not sent on a regular basis. The majority of the alerts sent are to a geographically-specific area. Many people whose number is in the system probably have never received an alert from the system. Please know that we take the safety of our residents very seriously and do all we can to inform you when it is warranted. A missing child alert is always warranted. Luckily, Gabriel was located in another state.
We understand the concerns regarding this latest notification. Please accept our apologies for this hiccup.