Public alert and warning tools are essential to save lives and protect property during emergencies and disasters. Before, during and after an emergency, it is important that you know how to receive essential information and announcements from authorities. Consider how you will get alerts and information when you are at home, work, school, travelling or in other locations. This page provides you with some resources on staying informed on potential or developing situations. Please remember to get emergency information from trustworthy and reliable sources!
Communicating Before, During, and After Disasters
It is important to be able to communicate with your friends and family during and after a disaster. You can prepare in advance and be ready to tackle disrupted networks, loss of power and interrupted service. For instance, a short text message is more likely to make it through a crowded network rather than a phone call. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have created a short brochure that might help you prepare your communication plan.
Emergency Alert System (EAS)
The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to provide the President with communications capability to address the American people during a national emergency. The system also may be used by state and local authorities, in cooperation with the broadcast community, to deliver important emergency information targeted to specific areas. To hear an EAS broadcast, simply tune into a television, radio or cable station. (Source: FEMA.gov)
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are very short (<90 characters) emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities. WEA are sent through your mobile carrier and will look like a text message. The WEA message will show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. They are designed to get your attention in a critical situation, but may not give all the details you receive from other notification services. With WEA, warnings can be sent to your mobile device when you may be in harm's way, without need to download an app or subscribe to a service. You are not charged for WEA messages. WEA may include:
- Extreme weather, and other threatening emergencies in your area
- AMBER alerts
- Presidential alerts during a national emergency
Outdoor Warning Sirens
Almost all communities have a number of outdoor warning sirens. The sirens are called outdoor warning sirens because their primary purpose is to alert people who are outside to severe weather. The system is not designed to provide notification inside of your home or business. The location, design and performance of the siren system is intended to provide a warning to people who are outdoors to take cover. Contact your municipality to learn more about the siren locations in your area.
Optional Alerts (Sign up for these):
Nixle is a community information service dedicated to helping people stay connected to the information that matters most to them. Nixle offers notification services for local police departments, county emergency management offices, municipal governments and other agencies. These agencies partner with Nixle to disseminate news and information that is both geographically and personally relevant. Nixle makes information instantly available over SMS, mobile application, email, and web. You can sign up and customize an account in order to receive the information that matters most to you. Whether it is where you live, work, or have friends or family throughout the country, the information is immediately available to you over your mobile phone, email and computer. Use this link to sign up for Nixle alerts – you can also search to see which local agencies utilize Nixle.
Northwest Herald Text Alerts
A text alert service is available through the Northwest Herald website. Interested residents can sign up to receive a variety of alerts, including emergency alerts from the health department, their community, or a number of other agencies. Profiles can be personalized to match the information that is personally relevant. Use this link to sign up for Northwest Herald Text Alerts.
There are numerous smart phones mobile applications that can assist you in preparing and responding to an emergency incident. Apps from FEMA, Red Cross, WeatherBug, AccuWeather and many others can provide you with emergency information on your Android and iOS devices. While convenient, an app should not be your single source for emergency information. Apps require a data network to operate and in times of emergency, data networks may become congested or fail completely. This can cause delays in app function and delivery of alerts.
Other Resources for Emergency Information:
Relatively new to McHenry County, the 211 service streamlines access to health and human services for McHenry County residents. When an individual needs information or referral services for which they have little or no prior knowledge or experience, dialing 211 is a simple option. Once the individual dials 211, they will be connected to a call center where they will speak to a professional information and referral specialist who will refer or connect the caller to the appropriate agency. 211 in McHenry County is run through the United Way of Greater McHenry County.
NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards
NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information from the nearest National Weather Service office. NWR broadcasts official warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It also broadcasts alerts of non-weather emergencies such as national security, natural, environmental, and public safety. NWR requires a special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the signal. Click here for McHenry County specific information for your weather radio.
In Case of Emergency (ICE)
The acronym ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. This program encourages participants to enter “ICE” into their cellular phone’s contact list and attach the name and number of someone who should be contacted in an emergency. Emergency responders seeing this will know who to call if something has happened to the owner of the phone. ICE was the brainchild of a paramedic who had encountered difficulties getting contact names from shocked or injured patients.
American Red Cross -- Safe and Well
After a disaster, letting your family and friends know that you are safe and well can bring your loved ones great peace of mind. However, amidst the chaos and communication interruptions, this may not be simple to do. The American Red Cross has designed a website to help make that communication easier. On the Safe and Well website, users can register themselves and loved ones can search through a database of registrants.
American Red Cross --Patient Connection
When local emergencies happen, searching for an injured loved one can be a slow and complicated process. The American Red Cross created the Patient Connection program to help expedite this process. The program reunites hospitalized disaster victims with family and friends, offering one central hotline where families can obtain information. This eliminates the need to call or drive around to multiple hospitals to look for a loved one. Patient Connection is activated when a local incident sends 10 or more people to hospitals. A call center is opened so people can inquire about those who may have been hospitalized. Patient Connection is available in Illinois and northwest Indiana.
Emergency Contact Database -- IL Secretary of State
The Illinois Secretary of State allows residents with an IL driver’s license, driving permit or ID card to enter emergency contact information into a secure database. In the event of a serious vehicle accident, law enforcement may access this database to reach the person’s emergency contacts. Only law enforcement can access this information and only in case of emergency. Sign up for this program on the CyberDriveIllinois website.
Premise Alert Program (PAP) --McHenry County Sheriff's Office
The PAP allows those with special needs or disabilities, or their guardians, to provide personal information to Public Safety Agencies in the State of Illinois for emergency dissemination to police, fire and EMS personnel. The information provided to first responders for McHenry County is stored and maintained in our secure database that is provided to first responders, via our computer aided dispatch (CAD) system, prior to their arrival at the scene.