Rockdale to get new emergency network

CONYERS -- Rockdale County will soon have the ability to notify residents of emergency situations by phone, e-mail or text message with the approval of an emergency notification network by the Board of Commissioners.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a contract Tuesday with Emergency Communications Network Inc. of Ormond Beach, Fla., to install the company's Code Red notification system.

The contract will cost $75,000 for three years. Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington explained no county general fund money will be used. The contract will be funded by a grant the Sheriff's Office received from the Georgia Emergency Management Administration.

The system is sophisticated enough to direct emergency messages or calls countywide or narrowed to a specific area as small as a single street. Wigington said there is no hardware involved and installation of the system is done remotely within a week of approval.

"It will notify you on the land lines in the areas specified and do so by cell phone, text message or e-mail, if the person opts into the system," he said.

Wigington, who serves as the county's emergency management director, said once the company is ready, his department and the county's Department of Community Affairs and Media Relations will get the word out to the public on how to opt into the Code Red system.

There has been interest in an emergency notification system for years. A system of outdoor sirens had been discussed, but Wigington said that method was ineffective because many people inside buildings and in their cars likely would not hear the sirens.

The Board of Commissioners had to formally reject proposals submitted by 10 companies, including Emergency Communications Network, as part of a bidding process started by the county. Tina Malone, Rockdale County purchasing manager, explained they had discovered Emergency Communications Network had a contract with the federal government that allowed the county to receive a discount.

The commissioners agreed to reject the proposals, which is within the guidelines of the Request For Proposal (RFP) process as Malone said, but Commissioner JaNice Van Ness said she was troubled that the county did not know about the federal discount before issuing an RFP for the service.

"I was disappointed that this became a waste of time for all of the companies who submitted a proposal," she said. Van Ness also questioned the difference in proposals, including the one submitted by Emergency Communications Network, which Malone said was ranked fifth among the others based on price and scope of services.

Wigington explained the RFP was written too broadly and the proposals included services the county could not use. He said the Code Red Network was a basic service and is used by 50 counties across Georgia.