Every home in Cumberland County will get a call from the county’s public safety dispatch center Wednesday, but Director Bill Holmes says that’s not enough reach.

Holmes wants residents to sign up with their cellphones, too, so they can be alerted to emergencies such as evacuations, hostage situations and missing people.

“The system is only as good as the amount of people it can contact,” Holmes said.

The Cumberland County Regional Communications Center is testing its CodeRED system, a reverse 911 system that allows public safety officials to send a recorded telephone message to hundreds of residents in any area simultaneously.

The system is an upgrade over the county’s previous program, CityWatch. It can contact many more numbers simultaneously. It also enables cellphone customers to receive an alert for a given area if they are within the radius of a cellphone tower receiving the alert.

“If someone’s at the Cumberland Fair and there’s a missing person at the Cumberland Fair, if it hits that (cellphone) tower and you’re registered, it will go to your cellphone,” Holmes said.

People who sign up with their cellphone numbers also will be alerted to a major emergency in their hometowns even if they are not there.

Residents can sign up for the system by clicking on the CodeRED icon at the bottom of the cumberlandcounty.org Web page. Landlines are automatically part of the system’s database because they are registered with the state’s enhanced 911 program.

The communications center started a test on April 17, but Holmes canceled it after the dispatch center got flooded with calls from people who thought they were being targeted in a scam. The center will run the test again, a necessary step in setting up the program’s ability to function, he said.

The test will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and will include an automated message introducing the CodeRED system. The call will appear to originate from an 855 or 866 area code.

The system costs $20,000 a year and is available to any public safety agency in the county, Holmes said. South Portland and Scarborough have already implemented the CodeRED program.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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