911 Callback System Utilized To Help Fire Officials

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The odor that led to the evacuation of a College Station subdivision was paint or paint thinner, according to College Station Fire officials. Residents of the Chimney Hill area reported the odor around 7:30 Tuesday night.

Bart Humphreys, the Public Information Officer for the College Station Fire Department, said that the heavy rain that fell Monday probably swept some paint or paint thinner into the storm sewer.

During the evacuation period, Emergency Management was able to use a reverse 911 mechanism to aid in informing the residents of the Chimney Hill area.

"It is a tool that is available to emergency management and dispatch centers across Brazos County, as well as into Burleson, Robertson, and Leon County, and it is a tool that we can use to notify the public about different things," said Michele Mead the Deputy Coordinator for Brazos County Emergency Management.

The technology acts as a 911 callback system, which can call residents and alert them to a variety of happenings in their neighborhood. "We've used it for water outages in particular neighborhoods, we've used it for several of our oil companies, for gas companies that have done line testing. We've used it quite a bit with the health department, through the West Nile season," said Meade.

All residents with a home phone line within the evacuation area Tuesday night received a call from the system. Some had already evacuated before the call went out.

"The first message went out to two of the streets to do a mandatory evacuation of all the residents and their pets, and to have them walk to a particular location to meet the College Station Fire Department," said Meade.

The system first arrived in the Brazos Valley about three years ago, but recently received a major upgrade. Meade stated, "the last week in August has driven the system web based, which just gives us incredible capabilities to use across the county."

Authorities say the system worked exactly as it was designed to on Tuesday night. It's a success story they hope to build on the next time the system is activated.

Emergency Management employees can access the system from any computer with audio capabilities. The technology isn't quite ready for those without a landline. Research, however, is being conducted on creating a site where residents can register their cell phone numbers in order to receive the reverse 911 calls.