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MALTA: Warning system topic of meeting

The Malta Town Board heard a presentation on the potential uses of the new county emergency notification system at its Monday, Aug. 6, meeting.

The genesis of that idea was some of the bad weather we had, said Paul Lent, emergency services director for the county, of the system that sends automated calls to residents in the event of an emergency. The system, which is being implemented across Saratoga County, not only serves countywide warnings, but also grants towns the privilege to use the system for their own emergency announcements.

"We have asked each town involved to execute a policy procedures document," said Lent, regarding the authority required to employ the system. Lent suggested the system's use be limited, noting "the public could become tone-deaf to them (emergency signals) if they are overused."

According to Lent, the system "is available and operational," and runs on a database of phone numbers that is updated quarterly. This ensures that residents of Saratoga Country will be able to be contacted through the new system.

Some concerns emerged regarding cellphone contact, but the possibility of using cellphone towers to identify cell subscribers in the immediate area was proposed as a solution.

"That really does have tones of Big Brother," said Lent of the anxiety some felt about the use of cellphone towers, "to be able to pick your cell phone out of the air."

Nevertheless, he said, the technical parameters of the system afford many benefits: It will have the capacity to call "131,000 access lines in 20 minutes."

Additionally, Lent reported on Saratoga County's plan to update the County Emergency Radio System. He said those involved with the radio system have met with all agencies affected, including fire and EMS departments, to ensure its success.

"We want to be sure that we haven't over-designed or under-designed the system," said Lent, who suggested that the county might switch to higher band frequencies for emergency radio pages or even digital pagers.

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