Accidental Emergency Alert Tests Athens County’s GIS Capabilities

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The Hocking College Campus in Nelsonville welcomed a record number of visitors last weekend to the Nelsonville Music Festival. Public safety forces across Athens County were again ready for anything that might arise. Little did the Hocking College Police Department and the Athens County 9-1-1 Communications Center know that last Thursday evening was going to lead them into an experience with modern global information system (GIS) technology they had never experienced before?

At 11:12 PM Athens County 9-1-1 dispatcher Matt Simms received a call from a Nathan Bussard stating that he had received an emergency notification from his sister Laken by a cellphone application that sends a text message with GPS coordinates. He had no other information and was not able to make contact with her by text or cellphone call. The Athens County 9-1-1 dispatcher Simms was able to use the coordinates and the county GIS to locate the origin of the emergency alert in the camping field at Hocking College. The dispatcher also tried to call Laken’s cellphone without success. Hocking College Police Department was contacted by dispatcher Simms at 11:18 PM and he talked with Sargent Mike Redecker. The emergency alert message originated from the camping area for the Nelsonville Music Festival and was populated by several thousand people.

Sargent Redecker used the GPS coordinates and a computer program to narrow down the search area for Laken. Redecker then used a GPS application on his cellphone to guide him exactly to the coordinates. Sargent Redecker found Laken Bussard at 11:40 PM unharmed. Her cellphone was in a nearby tent and had activated the emergency signal for an unknown reason.

From the time Athens County 9-1-1 received the original call until Hocking College Police located Laken was 28 minutes. This was possible because of the training and equipment that is available to public safety responders in Athens County. Luckily this event was only an accidental activation, but it is nice to know that this type of system is available in Southeast Ohio.

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About Athens County Emergency Management Agency

Emergency Management Agency is the central point of coordination within the county for response and recovery to disasters. The primary focus of the agency when not in a response or recovery mode is to ensure that the county and citizens residing in it, are prepared to respond to an emergency or disaster and to lead mitigation efforts against the effects of future disasters.
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