Emergency communication

Hand holding a cell phoneBefore, during, and after an emergency event, the timely and accurate distribution of information is essential in protecting and assisting the community members of Colorado Springs. People need to understand what is happening, what actions they should take, how urgent their actions are, and what to expect. In Colorado Springs, there are a variety of ways that emergency communications are provided to community members, including:

  • The Emergency Alert System
  • Emergency Notification System
  • Weather radios
  • The National Weather Service
  • Local television, radio, social media, and print media

During an emergency, alert and warning officials need to provide the public with life-saving information quickly. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) made available through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) infrastructure, is just one way Colorado Springs safety officials can quickly and effectively alert and warn the public about serious emergencies.

WEAs look like a text message, but are designed to get your attention and alert you with a unique sound and vibration. The message will only be issued when an imminent threat requires specific action to be taken by the public for its safety. WEAs are not more than 90 characters and will include the type and time of the alert as well as the action that should be taken. Mobile users are not charged with receiving WEAs and there is no need to subscribe. Most new smartphones are WEA capable and are set up to receive these messages, but it is important to ensure that this feature has not been turned off.

Reporting Emergencies with 911

Call 911 when you:

  • See fire.
  • Smell smoke or gas.
  • See or hear an explosion.
  • See a downed power line.
  • See or have a need for medical assistance.
  • See a suspicious person or vehicle in or leaving a secured area.
  • See a suspicious package in a public area.
  • See someone being forcibly detained or taken against his or her will.
  • See or become aware of an immediate threat to life and/or property.
  •  See something that is noticeably different that may present a threat.

When calling 911

  • A well-trained call-taker will answer the phone.
  • Wait for the call-taker to ask you questions.
  • If possible, have the victim or witness at the phone.

Be prepared to answer these questions

  • What is the address where the incident occurred?
  • Is the location a house, apartment, or business?
  • What address are you calling from?
  • What is your name?
  • What is your phone number?
  • When did the incident occur?
  • Can you describe the suspect (if applicable)? Can you identify race, sex, age, height, weight, hair, glasses, clothing, etc.?
  • What was the suspect’s mode of travel? (On foot, bike, vehicle, cab, etc.)
  • Did the suspect have a weapon? What type? (Revolver, semi-automatic pistol, knife, pepper spray, etc.)
  • Where was the suspect when you last saw him/her and which direction was he/she traveling? (north, south, east, west, etc.)

When calling 911 about a suspicious person or vehicle,and if it is safe to do so

Observe the suspect:

  • Observe without staring.
  • Start at the top of the head.
  • The more detail the better.
  • Note unique features.
  • Write down details.

Observe the vehicle:

  • Make/Model/Color
  • Approximate year
  • Body style
  • Anything unique
  • License plate number and state
  • Direction of travel

Do not actually call 911 to practice with your children. Help your children practice dialing and talking to 911 by playing the 911 game on the web at www.firepals.com.

Cell Phone Emergency Notification System

To receive early warning notification calls related to emergency events happening in your area via cell phone, register your number with El Paso–Teller 911 to be added to the cell phone database. www.elpasoteller911.org.

Emergency Alert System

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a nationwide method of alerting the public to emergency events and disasters. In Colorado, the EAS is comprised of 15 geographic areas with individual plans. Colorado Springs falls within the Pikes Peak EAS area covering El Paso and Teller Counties. Current Federal Communications Commission regulations require all television broadcast stations and cable systems to participate in EAS tests and activations. During an emergency, the public will see an EAS message scroll across television screens.

Source: Colorado State Emergency Communications Committee

El Paso-Teller County 911

A 911 system is considered enhanced when a citizen calls 911, is routed to a specific location, and the caller’s address and telephone number are displayed on a computer screen for the dispatcher to reference. For Colorado Springs residents, these calls go to the Police Department. When cell phones are used to dial 911, the telephone number and the location of the cell site or base station transmitting the call will appear. In some instances, the latitude and longitude of the caller will be provided for the dispatcher depending on the technology of the phone and service provider.

For additional information or to register your cell phone number at your physical address, please go to www.elpasoteller911.org

Source: El Paso-Teller County 911

Emergency Notification System

The Emergency Notification System (ENS) allows 911 dispatchers to send recorded emergency notifications to telephone numbers in specific geographic areas. Emergencies can include severe weather, evacuations, hazardous material releases, missing persons, terrorist threats, and neighborhood emergencies.

Please follow the instructions given during the message, and if prompted, call the phone number that is provided to you for further information.

How to prepare for notification

  • When a notification is made, the system will send the message to businesses and residents who have a wired telephone within a specific area.
  • Cell phone users must register their number at www.elpasoteller911.org to receive ENS alerts. You can register two cell phone numbers per address regardless of area code.
  • You must reside in El Paso or Teller Counties to participate in local ENS and it can take up to 90 days to get the number into the Emergency Notification System database.
  • Voice Over Internet Provider (VOIP) subscribers should check with their service provider to see if they submit their data to the National 911 database to make it possible for the subscriber to receive Emergency Notification System alerts.

What to expect when you get a call

  • When you answer an Emergency Notification Alert, the line will be silent because the system is voice activated. When you say “hello,” a voice says “This is an important message from 911, press 1 to hear the message.”
  • After pressing 1 the emergency message plays.
  • Upon completion of the message, the system will ask you to press 2 to end the call.
  • The system will call you back again if you end the call before the entire message has played.
  • Please do not hang up until you have heard the entire message.

What if you do not answer

  • Since the Emergency Notification System is voice activated, the system can be triggered by an answering machine or a voice mail service.
  • The system knows it is interacting with a machine if it detects that the prompts are not being followed.
  • The system has a built-in delay to allow the answering machine greeting to play if the prompts are not followed.
  • Once the greeting is finished the emergency notification message will be left.
  • Telephone customers who do not have an answering machine or voice mail will not receive the message.
  • The display will read “911 Event” if a wired telephone customer has caller ID.

Source: El Paso-Teller County 911

National Weather Service

The local National Weather Service (NWS) office serving Colorado Springs and the surrounding area is located in Pueblo, Colorado. The Pueblo office provides forecasts, warnings, and other meteorological information to the general public, media, emergency management and law enforcement officials, the aviation community, and other customers. Serving as the nerve center for official government weather services across much of Southern Colorado, the staff at the NWS in Pueblo ensures the delivery of timely information on critical weather.

By accessing the NWS Web site at www.nws.noaa.gov, you can receive the local seven-day forecast, current weather conditions, radar and satellite images, and the latest information on any current or expected hazardous weather conditions. To access this information, type “Colorado Springs, CO” into the box at the upper left corner of the NWS home page where it says “Local forecast by City, St,” and click on GO.

Weather Radios

National Weather Radio is an “All Hazards” radio network, making it your single source for comprehensive weather and emergency information. In conjunction with Federal, state and local emergency managers, and other public officials, warning and post-event information is broadcast for all types of hazards – including natural, environmental, and public safety. Weather radios receive weather and public service announcements from the National Weather Service and the Emergency Alert System. National Weather Radio broadcasts official NWS warnings, watches, forecasts, and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the National Weather Radio network signal is required. Conventional wall-powered and battery-operated weather radios typically can be purchased for less than $50 through a variety of retail and online outlets. Radios with the Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology allow you to program for your specific area.

Colorado Springs National Weather Radio Station

  • Call Sign: WXM-56
  • Site Name: Colorado Springs
  • Site Location: Cheyenne Mountain
  • Frequency: 162.475 MHz
  • SAME Code: 008041