Edited Version October 25, 2000 Transcript
EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation

"Community Alert Network at Los Alamos"

Ken Baechel

John Hodgens
National Sales Manager

Mark Guidetti
Operations Manager

Community Alert Network Inc.

Amy Sebring, Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the October 25, 2000 online Virtual Tech Arena presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives (http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/livechat.htm). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Tech Arena! Today we are featuring the Community Alert Network (CAN) warning system, and their experience at the Los Alamos fire last spring.

Now it is our pleasure to introduce Ken Baechel, John Hodgens and Mark Guidetti joining us from CAN HQ at Albany, NY. For pictures of our guests, see <http://www.can-intl.com/employ.htm>

Ken is the President of CAN that he founded in 1984. I can tell you from personal knowledge that he is well known in the Emergency Management community, and serves as the Chaplain for IAEM.

John Hodgens is the National Sales Manager for CAN, and he comes from a background in technical sales and communications.

Mark Guidetti is the Operations Manager for CAN, and is responsible for ensuring the performance of the warning system.

Ken Baechel: Thanks, Amy. It is an honor to be invited to present to the EIIP Forum.

I have asked John Hodgens <[email protected]> our Sales Manager and Mark Guidetti <[email protected]> our Operations Manager to discuss the Los Alamos fires, but first I'd like to give you some information about CAN.

The company began in 1982 and started "The Missing Child Network" in 1984. This was the first time that a company used telephonic technology for emergency warning and alerting. Quickly we realized that there were many other applications beyond missing children and changed our name to Community Alert Network (CAN). <http://www.can-intl.com>. (800-992-2331)

Community Alert Network®, Inc. (CAN®) is the leader in Emergency Notification Service in the U. S. and Canada. CAN® is a unique computer-driven, telephone-warning and personnel-recall service used by more than 650 + communities & corporations.

CAN®delivers the ability to call large numbers of people and/or emergency response personnel in a short period of time using 250 + phone lines (15,000 + calls per hour/45,000 population). The flexibility of CAN® allows you to contact persons via telephone, pager, cellular phone and fax.

CAN® will quickly reach community members on TDD/TTY machines, and can activate sirens. One easy phone call and our system becomes "your system". CAN® will quickly reach community members on TDD/TTY machines, and can activate sirens. One easy phone call and our system becomes "your system".

CAN® also provides a sophisticated recall service whereby off duty response teams can receive a confidential message and answer a series of questions, i.e., "when will you arrive at the E.O.C.?" or questions regarding fitness and availability, and other questions.

CAN® 's two Operations Centers (East Coast & West Coast) provide reliable off-site backup and redundancy while maintains a FTP server for secure upload/download of data. Community Alert Network®, Inc.'s Incident Controllers are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. CAN® is a future-proof solution to your notification needs in that we will maintain the equipment, the phone lines, the data base and the staffing and free our clients up to address the situation at hand.

John, would you please give us an overview about the Los Alamos fires last May?

John Hodgens: Thank you, Ken. Let me set the scene for this event first. Just over 5 months ago on May 4th, 2000, the staff at Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico, set fire to Upper Frijoles as part of a prescribed fire, or controlled burn. As the wind picked up and shifted, the fire spread beyond the upper east fireline. This became a declared wildfire early the next afternoon. The fire was contained on May 6th, but the wind returned on May 7th.

Local officials contacted CAN and we began calling in the first group of firefighters on the afternoon of May 7th. The fire then began to sweep through Santa Fe National Forest. Additional messages were sent by CAN for more firefighters. Then direction-specific messages were sent to residents and businesses by Captain Robert Repass. Over the next few days high winds pushed the fire into Los Alamos Canyon.

The towns of Los Alamos and White Rock were in the path of the fire. Homes and businesses needed to be evacuated. Over the next several days, people are evacuated throughout the day and night. One woman's comment on NBC nightly news was that she had five minutes to get out once she had received a phone call. In her rear view mirror she watched her house swallowed up in flames as she drove away.

By the latter part of May, what was being called the 'Cerro Grande Fire', ended up destroying over 230 homes and more than a quarter million acres. During these Los Alamos Fires, Community Alert Network® was initially used for staff recall. I have a CD ROM with actual voice messages on it where you can hear the increasing urgency in the activators voice as this fire accelerates. Contact me if you would like a copy. Subsequently, 14 different messages were activated over a 2-day period alerting people in different geographic areas as to what evacuation routes to take.


In summary, over 27,000 calls were made evacuating people and giving them direction- specific instructions. The activators use our repeat option that enables the end receiver of the call to hear the message again. The receiver of the call hears a tagged message at the end that simply states "To repeat, press 1 - to terminate press 2 or hang up." This repeat option helps especially in the middle of the night when people need directions on where to evacuate.

Many of the people at Los Alamos gave Community Alert Network® a lot of credit in helping them be able to say that there was no loss of life or injury. Look for an article on CAN® in 911 magazine this month that outlines this activation.


Now, let's talk/type about how CAN® works. Keep in mind that last year we handled over 900 incidents, drills and tests. Here is the process to activate Community Alert Network®.

• First identify the need whether it is for staff re-call or community alerting, out-dial and or in-dial.

• Then make one telephone call to Community Alert Network's operations center.

• Give them the information as to who you want to call and where you want the message to go.

• And we're off and calling on over 250 telephone lines at the same time.


Once Community Alert Network® has completed the calls you've requested, we provide an after action report immediately that is comprehensive and informative, giving details as to who received the calls and who didn't. The fax report provides you an instant real world snap shot of what took place with each individual call out. It also provides you with a summary total. You can determine with this fax report how many "busy" (status code 7) or "no answer" calls (status code 8) are still outstanding. At this point, you can re-call CAN® Operations and send the message again just to the Code 7's and 8's. This fax report has been a useful tool for real emergencies as well as exercises.


Community Alert Network® provides a "FUTURE-PROOF" field-tested notification tool. CAN® is a proven, easy-to-use, notification service provider. It is easy to use and requires minimal training. Visit us on-line at <http://www.can-intl.com>. Now, I'd like to introduce our Director of Operations, Mark Guidetti.

Ken Baechel: Mark was "knocked off", he'll be right back. John, would you please tell them about CNN while we wait ?

John Hodgens: We will be featured on CNN in the next week or two. CAN® will be featured on a program called "Future Watch." Please drop me an email and I will let you know when it will air. <[email protected]>.

Mark Guidetti: Hello All! I'm very excited to let you know about some of the services we offer which add up to make CAN® unique in emergency notification:

• Redundancy

• Secure File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Server

• Flexibility

• Multi-Language Messaging.

CAN® has two redundant centers - One in Reno, NV and One in Albany, NY. Each center is a mirror image of the other and each has 3 complete sets of client data, a backup generator and totally redundant servers. The centers can act independently, or as a single unit. This next slide shows this schematically.


CAN® has established a Secure FTP server which serves at least two purposes: 1) it provides a secure location for the client to provide data to CAN® 2) it provides a secure off-site data backup for the client. The server in CAN's Operations Centers are protected by double cipher locks with entrance on a strict need-to-know basis.


CAN® also provides flexible programs which are customized to meet your unique needs.


Finally - CAN® has implemented the capability to have your messages translated into any of over 140 different languages - from the more common, like Spanish to the not-so-common, like Vietnamese and its dialects. That concludes our overview, and we would be happy to answer your questions. So now I will turn it back over to Amy.

[Audience Questions]

Amy Sebring: Thanks Mark. We now invite your questions/comments.


Kenn Honig: Ken, I remember that CAN also was activated for a fire /Haz-Mat event in Alaska. How did that work out?

Ken Baechel: It went very well. We helped evacuate the Homer Spit (peninsula). After there was an explosion containing hazardous materials.

John Hodgens: It happened in July 1998. CAN completed 8,627 phone calls to residents along the Kenai Peninsula. The Haz/Mat was ammonia.


Amy Sebring: How much is the cost per call, and are some of these costs recoverable under disaster declarations?

John Hodgens: Our average cost per call is roughly $1.00 assuming the message is 20 - 30 seconds in length. The costs have been recoverable under several disaster declarations.

Ken Baechel: Often recovered from the spiller or FEMA.


David Crews: How do you do the language translations? I have a translation program (40 languages) and parts of it have large dictionaries, but other parts have small dictionaries and do not do accurate translations.

John Hodgens: We recently delivered emergency messages in several Laotian dialects.

Mark Guidetti: We use a service that can be contacted at the time of the activation or in advance for pre-recorded messages.

Ken Baechel: We have a special arrangement with a service that has someone who speaks one of 140+ languages within 20 seconds.


David Crews: How do you ensure accuracy of the translated messages?

Mark Guidetti: We have a very reliable service that we tested in advance. We have also had messages translated in writing and have had them reviewed. Very good results.


Rick Tobin: Has CAN been used by local leaders to call the public to attend "Hot Wash" discussions after a major event, like the Los Alamos fires?

Ken Baechel: Occasionally. The most common use after an event is usually to give an 'All Clear' but rarely for "Hot Wash".


D. Seth Staker: Mark: In the early 90's in Charleston, WV MIC was released within the Union Carbide/Rhone Poulenc plant. In that community they had a community call down system that operated during shelters-in-place. During this event the phone system was so overloaded that it became inoperable. No one ever stated that the call down system was causative. However, can you address this issue as it relates to this potential and your system?

Mark Guidetti: We have selected 250 + lines purposely. This was judged to be the maximum to send in to certain areas without taxing the central offices.


Art Botterell: Ken, in a recent email, I saw mention of "Global Storm Link;" wonder if you could say anything about that?

Ken Baechel: We have not released much on it but I'll defer to John for general comments. It is exciting and worldwide. Another CAN product. Talking with live Meteorologists.

John Hodgens: We are considering contracting with an international service that can provide weather thresholds to corporations. This will enable them to determine weather threats to IS centers around the world. It is in research and development, stay tuned.


Amy Sebring: Ken, I expect the reason a CAN system was in place near Los Alamos was because of the lab, and that nobody anticipated using it for a wildfire. Does that type of multi-purpose use happen frequently in your experience?

Ken Baechel: Frequently we are hired for one reason and used for another.


Isabel McCurdy: Are you linked up with the E-Comm Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada?

John Hodgens: We have contracts in Vancouver. However, I am not sure if we are linked with E-Comm.

Final Question:

Rick Tobin: What has CAN's role been in coordinating messages with EAS (Emergency Alert System) throughout the US? Is there a consistent integration approach that works?

Ken Baechel: Part 1 -- Identify who you are; Part 2 -- Say what has happened; Part 3 -- Explain what you want the hearer to do; Part 4 -- Where do they go for more info.


Amy Sebring: That's all we have time for. Thank you very much Ken, John and Mark for being with us today. We very much appreciate your time and effort. Please stand by a moment while we take care of some business.

Ken Baechel: Thanks Amy, Avagene, et al.

Amy Sebring: We will have a text transcript posted later today, and reformatted versions with links to the slides at the end of the week. Avagene, can you tell us what is on for next week, please?

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. My appreciation to Ken, John and Mark for a fine presentation today - thank you, gentlemen.

Next week, Wednesday November 1, 12 Noon EST, please join us in the Virtual Classroom for a discussion on the "Comprehensive Hazmat Emergency Response - Capabilities Assessment Program (CHER-CAP)." Catherine Pomerantz, FEMA Region III, will be our speaker of the hour and will tell us all about this new nationwide program. Catherine is in the audience today and we look forward to her presentation and invite each of you to return next week and bring your peers. That's it for now, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thanks, Ava. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to receive weekly notices and our newsletter, please see <http://mail.wces.net:81/guest/RemoteListSummary/EIIP> to subscribe.

Thanks to all our participants today. We will adjourn the session for now, but you are welcome to remain for open discussion. You no longer need to use question marks. Please help us express our appreciation to Ken, John and Mark for today's presentation.