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Dodge County is getting set to roll out a new mass warning and alert system that can notify residents of emergencies and other important updates via cell phone, landline and social media.

The new warning system, provided by the company AlertSense, was approved by the Dodge County Board of Supervisors in a September meeting for $7,125 over five years, and should be implemented by the start of 2019, says Dodge County Emergency Manager Thomas Smith. Leading up to the launch, the county will be conducting a public awareness campaign.

The new system has several different capabilities. It allows the county to send internal alerts within different areas of government, like the fire department. The system also sends emergency notifications to the general public via landlines and social media. And it also sends wireless emergency alerts to cell phones, and through television and over the radio.

“It allows the public first responders to send messages directly to the public without relying on some other means to get their information,” Smith said. “[the public] can receive it directly from a public safety agency in the local government.”

Without this system, the main notification system operated at the local level is the outdoor warning sirens that often sound during tornadoes, high winds and other similar events. But those don’t provide much information, Smith said. Tornado warnings, meanwhile, are sent wirelessly by the National Weather Service and other alerts, like Amber Alerts, are coordinated at the state level, Smith said.

The new system will significantly expand Dodge County’s ability to reach local residents with everything from emergency situations to other important notifications. Potential scenarios could include a hazardous materials release, evacuations, law enforcement warnings, notifications of a dangerous suspect, scheduled power outages, missing people, weather related warnings and others.

Those listed in the phonebook will be automatically added into the system. For those who want to receive non-emergency notifications on their cell phones, they can register through the AlertSense app, Smith said, where they can customize their notifications by factors like location.

At this point, the system hasn’t been used at all and training still needs to be done before the 2019 launch, though Smith said that in the case of an emergency, he’d be able to use the system himself. The office of emergency management will be the administrative agency overseeing the utilization of the system.

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