A new, countywide alert system is available to warn Ellis County residents in the event of an emergency.

The CivicReady alerts system was launched this spring and is offered as a way to quickly and effectively reach residents in the event of a disaster, such as a weather emergency, wildfire or law enforcement situation, said Darin Myers, Ellis County fire chief and emergency management coordinator.

“It’s open to anybody. You don’t actually have to live in Ellis County,” he said. “If there’s a parent of a student that goes to Fort Hays and they want to keep track of the events going on in Ellis County, they can go to our Ellis County web page and sign up.”

A direct link is available on the homepage of the county’s website, ellisco.net. A new version of the site was launched Monday, and the CivicReady icon is located in a bar at the bottom of the page.

It is a free service, and the information provided is kept secure, Myers said.

Residents can select what warnings they want to receive and from which organizations. Some, for example, might want to see severe weather warnings but not watches. Organizers are working to remove some of the warning options that aren’t pertinent to northwest Kansas, such as hurricanes, Myers said.

Those who subscribe for the alerts also can choose how they want to receive the warnings — by phone, email, text or some combination of the three.

Some warnings, such as weather alerts, come from national organizations. County emergency officials manually will send out more localized warnings as needed.

It’s important to note countywide notifications would be sent to all subscribers, even if the emergency affects only a small area of the county, Myers said.

“So if you look at when a tornado warning gets issued, the polygon may include Ellis and Schoenchen, based on where the storm is, but not Hays,” he said. “So those alerts would get pushed to all of Ellis County because the warned area is in Ellis County.”

Ellis County had been working on going live with the program since mid-2016.

The county communications center also has the capability to warn residents through a reverse 911 system. Landline numbers already are on record with dispatch and can be tied to a physical address. In the event of a serious emergency affecting a small area, emergency operators then have the capability to contact residents with warning.

The CivicReady program, however, is helpful because it allows residents to be reached by cellphone and email if they are away from home, he said.

A total of 8,360 contacts are registered for county alerts, which amounts to approximately 20,000 people based on average household size, Myers said. Residents who have not done so are encouraged to visit the website and register.

The program also is uploaded with the county’s designated emergency shelters, and that information also will be pushed to residents if those shelters are opened for any reason.

“It’s the best way we can notify a lot of people individually or as a large group for different events that are going on,” he said.