Just a few days later, in Hawaii, a similar message warning of an impending missile strike did a bit more than startle residents, many of whom are aware of escalating rhetoric between the U.S. and a nuclear-armed North Korea.
Both messages were mistakes — there was no missile, and the Biodome alert probably didn’t need to go countywide — but the notice both incidents generated underscores the importance of such systems for when the dangers become more real.
Haywood’s is an opt-in system, for the most part, meaning that people who want to receive the notifications have to sign up; the easiest way for most is to text their zip code to 888777, but an online site, www.alerts.haywoodcountync.gov, is also available.
The Town of Canton, however, has a unique challenge; it’s residents, at least anecdotally, tend to be older than in most other Haywood County locales and as such may face technological challenges that could leave them out of the loop.
“I feel like it makes it more difficult because that age demographic is not as electronically oriented,” said Canton Town Clerk Lisa Stinnett. “Some of them don’t know how to text, some don’t have smartphones or computers.”
Stinnett wants that age group — or any other, for that matter — to know that the town can and will assist in signing people up for the system, which is integrated across Haywood County and costs about 29 cents per resident, per year.
“The system not only makes people aware of emergency situations, which is obviously our top priority, but it also keeps you safe, keeps your family safe and keeps people aware, like with the water outage,” she said.
During the town’s recent spate of water line breakages during a particularly cold snap, some residents wouldn’t have received updates because data from the town’s old system wasn’t migrated over to the new system.
Canton residents can stop by or call town hall at 828.648.2363 for help signing up.
— Cory Vaillancourt, Staff Writer