By Joe King, [email protected]

Sevier County Emergency Management Executive Director John Mathews. (The Herald/ Submitted Photo)

Sevier County Emergency Management Executive Director John Mathews. (The Herald/ Submitted Photo)

In an effort to provide inform residents of emergency situations and critical community alerts, Sevier County is updating an existing E911 program.

Code Red, a private company which totes the slogan “Keeping citizens informed”, was contracted for a four year agreement last year. The contract was for a total of $90,000 or about $22,250 a year. The fee to Code Red is paid by the County.

“Code Red benefits residents because in can alert anybody in the county of emergency situations,” said Sevier County Emergency Management Director John Matthews. “Most people call 911 when they are in trouble, but we have no way of reaching out to all county residents without a system like this.”
Examples of Code Red alerts include evacuation notices, bio-terrorism alerts, boil water notices, and missing child reports.

Both Mathews and Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said there was no specific incident that has prompted the use of the system, but maintained the importance of alerting residents of potentially dangerous county situations.

However, some Sevier County residents feel uneasy about providing personal information through a massive communication system such as Code Red.

Seymour resident De Lores King has a privacy concern regarding Code Red. (The Herald/ Submitted Photo)

Seymour resident De Lores King has a privacy concern regarding Code Red. (The Herald/ Submitted Photo)

“It makes me concerned because if they really want to get in touch with you they should be able to trace you,” said Seymour resident De Lores King. “They left an automated voicemail on my cell phone and asked me to update my information. The Code Red Community Notification Enrollment asks for various pieces of personal contact information such as address to be monitored, e-mail address, phone numbers, and even has an to create an account to manage preferences.

And while the Code Red Website states “information will remain the property of ECN and will not be disclosed unless compelled to do so by a court of sufficient jurisdiction”, King still feels uneasy about the program.

“Nowadays you don’t know who to trust,” she said.

In fact, Mathews said a total of 69,467 automated calls were made on behalf of the Code Red Program. About 43 percent of those calls were answered and about 48 percent received a voicemail request to update their information.

Addressing the privacy concerns brought up by King and other residents, Waters and Mathews both gave the program the official nod of the county.

“There is a valid reason for a privacy concern regarding this particular program,” Mathews said. “If they have received a phone call that means they are already in the system.”

Signing up for Code Red is not mandatory and participation is left the discretion of each individual.

To learn more about Code Red and how it functions visit www. Seviercountytn.gov and click on the link for Code Red.

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