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posted: 5/4/2010 12:01 AM

Vernon Township can connect in emergencies

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Residents in unincorporated areas of Vernon Township can access a new system to get information in emergencies.

The Blackboard Connect system has been in place on a trial basis, but township officials are now urging the 2,500 residents who could use it to do so.

According to Supervisor Bill Peterson, the system will allow the township to quickly communicate with residents in urgent situations, such as water contamination, when a child is missing, hazardous waste spills from trucks or railroad derailment, or street closings.

Residential phones in the township that are listed will be included automatically. Those who are not listed or who want other contact information, such as a work or cell numbers or e-mail address, should visit and click on the Blackboard Connect signup.

As many as three phone numbers and two e-mail addresses can be included.

Those without access to a computer can call (847) 634-4600 to have the information entered.

With the system, township officials can record, send and track personalized voice messages to residents, businesses or local agencies in a matter of minutes through a single phone call.

Text messages also can be sent to cell phones, PDAs and e-mail accounts as well as to devices for the hearing-impaired.

The messages can be sent to mobilize response teams or coordinate efforts with agencies or volunteers, for examples. People in specific geographic locations can also be pinpointed for messages.

Residents with call blocking services should add (847) 634-4600 to their approved number list to ensure they receive the notifications.

The service is free to residents, but costs the township about $5,000 per year.