Tinley Park official: Alerts are for emergencies only
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org January 24, 2014 6:00PM
Pat Carr, emergency services director for Tinley Park, checks the weather station at the Emergency Management Agency inside the Public Safety building. | Donna Vickroy~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 27, 2014 6:13AM
After a recent rash of home burglaries, Tinley Park residents began clogging the village’s 911 Command Center phone lines wanting to know why they weren’t notified in “real time,” why emails or text messages weren’t sent out as police were responding to each home burglary call.
Pat Carr, director of emergency management for the village, said there is a very good reason for that.
“The emergency notification system is for emergencies,” he said. “It is not designed to send out alerts about every call that police receive.”
Emergency notifications are sent out via email, by telephone or even made in person door to door when police have information that requires residents to react immediately. Examples include when the weather is severe enough for people to be warned to take cover; a hazardous material spill, when people might be evacuated; or when a criminal is on the loose, at which time people are warned to be on the lookout.
They do not include helicopters flying overhead, home break-ins or other routine police matters, Carr said. Yet calls regularly come into the center regarding those matters, he said.
“Just because there is police action in your area does not mean you are at risk,” Carr said. If residents are not at risk, they will not receive an emergency alert, he said.
“Some people think that as soon as a call comes into the center, they should be notified,” he said. “You have to give police time to respond to calls, to do their job. And then, if it is determined that others may be at risk, they will be notified.”
Carr said people may not realize that even when they call the nonemergency line requesting information that is not pertinent to their safety, such as to ask why helicopters are flying overhead, they are keeping emergency center personnel from responding to more serious matters.
Carr said there is frequent helicopter activity in the area because Tinley Park is in the flight path used by the Army National Guard, which flies into and out of Midway Airport every Tuesday and Thursday.
Were police to notify residents of every activity, it could lead to notification overkill, Carr said, and cause some people to begin ignoring the alerts.
He said that on the November day when tornadoes swept through downstate Washington and Diamond, the village sent out multiple alerts, causing several people to call and ask to be taken off the notification list because they believed they were getting too many alerts.
“We don’t want to desensitize people either,” Carr said. “We want people to look at an alert as an immediate call for some kind of action. Our priority is keeping people and property safe.”
For more information on the notification system, visit www.tinleypark.org/index.aspx?nid=99