The City of Borger is becoming part of a new public mass information system, better known as PARIS (Panhandle Area Regional Information System).
Borger City Manager Eddie Edwards said that for the past several years, panhandle emergency managers and the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission (PRPC) have been working together in an effort to provide all jurisdictions in the region the ability to contact their residents quickly when disasters are imminent.
“The goal was to create a sustainable call-out system that would enable local emergency management officials to rapidly notify their residents in mass when conditions (weather or otherwise) jeopardized their jurisdictions,” he said.
The opportunity to see this effort come to fruition appeared two years ago when the PRPC applied for and received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA) to cover 75 percent of the cost of building and implementing a regional notification system, Edwards said.
The Amarillo Area Foundation provided $100,000 to support a large portion of the non-FEMA funded system costs, with the PRPC providing another $24,000 in support.
“Together, these grant funds and contributions have now made it affordable for every jurisdiction in the region to maintain mass notification capabilities through the Panhandle Area Regional Information System (PARIS),” Edwards said.
The system has been in the design-build stage over the past year and was officially unveiled on Jan. 16 of this year. A region-wide media campaign began that day to encourage residents in the panhandle area to “Resolve to Be Ready” by registering their contact information into the new regional system.
“Why is this important? The more contact points that residents enter into the system, the more likely they are to receive a notice when time is of the essence,” Edwards said. “And, it’s important to note that any information entered into the system belongs to the individual that provided that information.”
Nobody else can see it or use it for any other purpose other than notifications. The system knows to send a call or text message to the cell phone, email address, or home phone number entered by a registering resident.
Edwards said the City of Borger currently has a similar system in place known as CodeRED. The system, commonly referred to as reverse 911, is provided for under a contract between the Emergency Communications Network and the City of Borger.
“While the current CodeRED system has certainly worked well, it is limited to voice calls only and will be discontinued as of Feb. 1, 2012,” he said.
The PARIS mass notification system has the ability to deliver an emergency or informational message by voice, e-mail, text message, fax, pager, or any combination thereof.
“With the reliance on mobile communications growing, it’s more important than ever that critical information be conveyed in a mobile environment,” Edwards said. “Panhandle residents are active and they’re not always around a radio, TV, or warning siren when emergency notices are issued. However, if that same notice can also go out to a cell phone in the form of a voice call, text message, or e-mail, it greatly increases the odds that the message will reach its intended audience no matter where the audience happens to be.”
The regional “Resolve to Be Ready” campaign is being carried out in conjunction with FEMA’s national campaign of the same name. As a first step toward personal preparedness, residents should “resolve to be ready” by logging onto www.R2BeReady.com  to register their contact information, along with the contact information of their family members into the new system.
“By registering, residents also make themselves eligible to win one of three prizes that will be awarded each week throughout the six-week campaign,” Edwards said.
In the months to come, new communications opportunities will be added into the system so residents are encouraged to come back to the site from time-to-time to see what’s been added and to make sure their contact information stays current.
“So, start your New Years right and ‘Resolve to Be Ready,’” Edwards said.