Reverse-911 seems to be successful

Published 3:54 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Reverse-911 program that was implemented for the first time last week to notify county residents about the standing dead tree removal service appears to be a success.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin told the Board of Supervisors Monday that the reverse-911 calling program started making calls to county residents on Monday, April 16.

The calling system is set up to place calls to all telephone numbers in the county. These numbers were provided by the phone company. The system makes calls between 5 and 8 p.m. daily. Lumpkin said in a phone interview Tuesday the calls will continue at least until the end of the month or until the system runs out of names and numbers to call.

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The way the system works is the program dials a telephone number. If there is an answer, the recorded message starts playing. If it plays in its entirety, it is considered a successful call, and the phone number is kicked out of the calling system. If an answering machine picks up, the program will leave a message, and the call is considered completed.

If there is no answer, the system puts the phone number back in the queue and retries it every five minutes. If the person who answers hangs up before the message starts, it is considered an unsuccessful call and the phone number is put back at the end of the list to call again later. If the person answering hangs up after the message has started, the program considers that a successful call and will not call back.

Michael Gervais, county data processing manager, said that in the week ending Monday a total of 20,450 calls had been attempted and 6,937 had been completed with 2,585 of them successful calls in which an answer was received and the message was completed. Answering machines picked up on 4,352 calls and a message was left.

Gervais said there are 20 lines making the evening calls, and there will be four more added in the next couple of days.

“We used this as a tool to try to get the message out,” said Lumpkin.

Because a lot of the letters that had been mailed were returned and not everyone reads the newspapers, said Lumpkin, “This was our only other option at getting the message out there.”

At the present time, there is not a way for the county to include cell phone numbers, because cell phones are not tracked in the same manner as land-line phones. Gervais said county officials and members of Emergency Management have discussed this issue, and are working towards a solution.

“What we’re working on is an idea for a way for people to submit their phone numbers,” said Gervais. Some ideas mentioned included having a registry on the county website or having a phone number where residents could call and register their number, but Gervais said that no definite plans were in the works yet.

Another concern that Gervais addressed was the idea that some people might think this is just a telemarketing or a solicitation call. Gervais said to avoid this problem, the county is calling from the main county phone number, which should show up on a caller identification screen as Pearl River County for those with caller identification.

“We’re not blocking the number, and it shouldn’t show up as zeros or as an unavailable number,” said Gervais. “We’re not trying to sell anything or anything like that. We’re just making this effort to more efficiently disseminate the information.”