IWAlert system to notify of Windsor utility emergencies

Published 3:07 pm Monday, October 23, 2023

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The town of Windsor is making arrangements to be able to quickly provide its citizens with crucial information in the event of a utility-related emergency, like a water line repair that necessitates a sudden, temporary cutoff in service.

The method of conveying this important information will be Isle of Wight County’s IWAlert Emergency Notification System, for which people can sign up.

The county website notes that this system enables the county to provide its citizens “with critical information quickly in a variety of situations, such as severe weather, unexpected road closures, missing persons and evacuations of buildings or neighborhoods.”

Windsor Town Manager Willam Saunders said, “Isle of Wight County is already using the system for issues such as road closures and localized flooding within the town of Windsor; we are just adding another type of notification event with utility-related events.”

At Windsor Town Council’s Oct. 10 meeting, Saunders shared details of the recent incident within the town that helped lead to this addition.

“We had an emergency water line repair that we had to do in Windsor Manor (mobile home park),” he said. “Normally, when we have a planned water main repair where we turn people’s water off, we notify them typically with a door hanger for the area that we’re going to have to isolate.”

He noted that the town previously has done emergency repairs in which it has pulled other staff to help place door hangers in an effort to get the word out quickly, but this latest incident was different.

“This happened so fast, and we didn’t expect the water to be off for long,” he said. “Then, of course, the local valve was problematic, so they had to go to a further valve, which cut more people off.”

After conferring with a concerned citizen, Saunders said he contacted Isle of Wight County Emergency Management Coordinator Will Drewery about the county’s IWAlert Emergency Notification System to see if it was possible to use the system in situations where the number of people to notify would be so great in such a short period of time.

“Will was very accommodating and said that we could use their system for things such as that, and we discussed further what that would look like and how that would work,” he said. “So it looks like we will be able to put out notifications on Isle of Wight Alert for closures like that – for service interruptions.”

The county website notes that the IWAlert system will allow those who have signed up for it to do the following:

  • Choose the locations in Isle of Wight they want to be contacted about – their home, their parent’s home, their workplace, their child’s school or day care, etc.;
  • Choose how they would like to be notified – by text message, email, cellphone, home phone, work phone, etc. and the order in which they would like the county to attempt to notify them; and
  • Sign up for various weather alerts directly from the National Weather Service and control when they receive these weather alerts by setting up a quiet period.

“An account should be established for each person, not by family,” officials note on the county website. “It takes just a few minutes to sign up, your information is confidential, and you can make changes at any time.”

Follow the link provided to sign up for IWAlert Notifications: https://member.everbridge.net/892807736722068/login/.

“When we have a situation such as an emergency water main repair, it is difficult to notify those affected immediately,” Saunders stated in a Thursday, Oct. 19, interview. “However, the IWAlert Notification System has given us the ability to pinpoint messages to citizens, and we greatly appreciate Will Drewery, Isle of Wight County emergency management coordinator, assisting us with this benefit to the community. The only downside is that citizens need to sign up to get the messages, so we advise folks to sign up for the IWAlert system.”

Also, speaking in an Oct. 19 interview, Drewery stated that there were more than 15,000 users subscribed to the system countywide, and from that number, about 6,500-7,000 subscribe to the optional alerts for things like road closures, special events, etc.

“I would estimate that there are about 200 people in the Windsor town limits subscribed to the optional alerts,” Drewery said. “We are also still able to access residences and businesses who have landlines through this system.”

Windsor Town Councilman David Adams commended Saunders for his work in getting town utility-related emergencies added to the list of events about which the IWAlert Emergency Notification System will inform subscribers.