Since You Asked: How Does Alert Montgomery Decide What To Notify Residents About
The alert system sends out about 700 notifications each year about significant traffic, police and weather events
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Sometimes it seems like I get a lot of notifications from Alert Montgomery and it’s made me wonder how the county decides what rises to the level of requiring an alert to be sent?
—A reader in Rockville
Bethesda Beat reporters have also been wondering about this question as we’re signed up to receive every alert that’s sent out—and often receive multiple alerts throughout the day.
Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, says the system has approximately 238,000 subscribers who receive alerts based on categories they’ve chosen. Those categories include traffic, weather, parks and recreation, public safety, health alerts, school specific emergencies and critical alerts. Alerts can be sent to landline and cell phones and to emails.
Critical alerts are sent to every Alert Montgomery user.
“Critical alerts are classified as those emergencies that pose a significant risk to life, property or the general environment of Montgomery County,” according to information provided by Stoddard. “These are sent only at the direction of the Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security director or operations chief in consultation with subject matter experts.”
In 2016, Stoddard says, only two events triggered ‘all user’ alerts: the power outage in July that shut down the county’s 911 communications center and the May incident involving a Prince George’s County man who shot a total of four people at Westfield Montgomery mall in Bethesda and at a shopping center in Aspen Hill.
Here’s how the county determines what other alerts to send:
- Traffic: These alerts are sent countywide to those who sign up to receive them. This is done because a resident’s registered address is not necessarily aligned with his or her travel behaviors. These alerts are, however, limited to issues concerning major interstate highways and state numbered roads and are only sent for major road closures to prevent message fatigue. Alerts are sent out only when all lanes on a roadway are expected to be closed in one direction for an hour or longer. The county receives traffic information from multiple sources including its