City of Ashland officials are working to have a reverse 9-1-1 system up and running in time for fire season.

City of Ashland officials are working to have a reverse 9-1-1 system up and running in time for fire season.

Their goal is to have the system operational at the end of June or in early July, said Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief John Karns.

The reverse 9-1-1 system will allow officials to call residents and give them information about disasters like fires and floods. It can also provide information on extreme weather, crime, utility outages and disruptive public works projects.

Officials recognized a need for a reverse 9-1-1 system during the 2009 Siskiyou Fire that burned woods and a home on Ashland's southeast outskirts. The urgency of getting a system became even more apparent during the fast-moving 2010 Oak Knoll fire that destroyed 11 homes.

This past week, the Ashland City Council approved spending $4,500 annually to team with the city of Medford and Jackson County for a reverse 9-1-1 system.

If Ashland had taken a go-it-alone approach to getting such a system, it would have cost $45,000, plus $10,000 each year for maintenance, city officials said.

Partnering with Medford and the county government has added complexities to the project, but has also yielded cost savings and widened the coverage area for emergency notifications to area residents, city officials said.

The partners first began examining emergency notification options in June 2010, Ashland city officials said.

The city of Ashland will begin reaching out to residents in mid-May to get their phone numbers and addresses entered into the reverse 9-1-1 system, Karns said.

He said outreach methods could include automatic calls to people using phonebook data, sending information to residents via the City Source newsletter and city utility bills, posting notices on the city and Ashland Fiber Network Web sites, and setting up a registration Web page. The city could also use contact and address information it has for its utility customers.

The city of Ashland previously finished projects to improve emergency communication that included adding the ability to broadcast emergency radio online, and solving call capacity problems that had affected the city's emergency hotline, city officials said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.