Chelan County is changing the system it uses to send emergency alerts to the public on their cell phones.

County commissioners Tuesday approved a switch to the firm Everbridge, which already is being used by the other counties in the region. 

Chelan County Emergency Management Specialist Rich Magnussen says it'll create uniformity in the region, which will boost reliability. 

"It gives us interoperability, so if we have a major incident in our county, and for some reason we're not able to get messages put out, we can ask one of our partner counties to put the message out for us," said Magnussen. "And since they use the same platform, they'll be familiar with how to use it, and it'll be seamless." 

The county's emergency alert system experienced a notable failure during intense wildfires in the summer of 2015. 

The new system will be up and running on April 1, and the public will not notice any changes.  

There are currently 5,545 subscribers to the alert system who will experience seamless transition, according to Magnussen.  

However, anybody who is in an area under an emergency alert or evacuation will get a notification on their cell phone. Emergency alerts are typically used to make the public aware of events such as wildfires, evacuations or mudslides. 

Magnussen says the new system will also speed up delivery of emergency alerts because it'll provide immediate translation. 

"So, as we're typing a message in English, it'll translate the message into whatever language we select simultaneously in a separate box, so it'll just speed up being able to get messages out for our community in Spanish," Magnussen said. 

Currently, an emergency alert has to be copied over and fed into Google Translate, and then be copied and pasted back into a message in Spanish. 

The county is switching to Everbridge from AlertSense Konexus. The cost will double from about $16,000 per year to $32,000. 

However, the cost is entirely funded by a FEMA grant through the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP). 

Magnussen said the funding, although issued annually on a competitive basis, will likely remain in place for Chelan County. The project received one of the top 10 scores in Washington state to receive SHSP grant funding. 

Image from Washington state - Homeland Security Regions
Image from Washington state - Homeland Security Regions

Chelan County is part of Homeland Security Region 7 in Washington state. Region 7 includes the five counties of Chela, Douglas, Grant, Kittitas and Okanogan as well as the Colville Tribes. 

Currently, Grant, Kittitas and Okanogan counties are using the Everbridge alert system while Douglas County has joined Chelan in moving to the system in the coming months. 

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