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January 26, 2013

The Mayor's Desk: When the city goes to 'Code Red'

Every so often, the issue comes up as to when to use the emergency messaging system we refer to as Code Red.

The last two times we’ve used it, we used it to declare snow emergencies and parking bans. However, when both those snow events didn’t produce forecasted results, we did not use Code Red to lift the parking bans, and we’ve gotten quite a few questions as to why.

Basically, Code Red is an extremely powerful tool. When we launch a Code Red call, it goes to almost 15,000 residents. We have been very disciplined about using it only for times when action on the part of the citizen is required. We do not use it as an information service.

Given its reach, inevitably we are awakening people who may be ill, have sleeping babies, or who have a sleep schedule themselves outside of a traditional schedule. Because we use it for those instances when action is required on the part of the citizen, we never want people to become immune to the Code Red system by overusing it for information-only calls.

For example, we used Code Red this past summer as the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses came closer to Gloucester. We used Code Red to alert the residents about the city imposed ban on all activity on city playing fields, and inform people about the actions that they could take by giving precautions from our public health director.

Another example of when resident action was needed was a few summers ago when there was a severe heat wave impacting the power supply to Gloucester. National Grid asked us if we could enlist citizen help to conserve energy due to the risk of interrupting power supply to the Blackburn Industrial Park, hospital, nursing homes, etc.

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