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Yavapai County Sheriff's Office alerted 1,100 residents of Black Canyon City to potential flooding at 9 p.m. Thursday during last week's winter storm using their new Emergency Notification System.

Communications personnel notified the residents in lowland areas during the system's first use, said Lt. Brian Hunt, technical services commander for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office acquired the Emergency Notification System in February 2009 through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security and, at that time, it was the only system of its kind operating in the U.S.

"We're trying to get as many people as possible to register online or by phone for the Emergency Notification System. It can be lifesaving," said Dwight D'Evelyn, spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.

"The Emergency Notification System is designed to supplement our evacuation program, which we did in person in several locations," D'Evelyn continued. "The one-on-one contact evacuation is always our primary focus when we have flooding concerns."

"In Black Canyon City, we had several volunteer teams and deputies on standby," D'Evelyn said. "We also alerted people in Cornville and lower Sedona, along some of the riverbeds and along the Agua Fria all through the Black Canyon City area."

On Thursday, communications personnel at the Sheriff's Office dispatch center typed in a specific message warning of potential flooding in the area and suggesting people evacuate to a local school designated as a Red Cross shelter, D'Evelyn said. The computer program then began notifying those in the affected area who registered with the system using both voice and text messages.

"The system lets communications personnel narrow the focus by picking out a specific area on the map to reach those affected - in this case, Black Canyon City along the Agua Fria," D'Evelyn said.

"We are very pleased with the performance of our Emergency Notification System during the recent storms and continue to encourage the public to visit our website, www.ycsoaz.gov, to learn more about the Emergency Notification System and to register their wireless and business devices," Hunt said.

Instead of traditional systems that rely on landline phone numbers provided by local telephone companies, the Yavapai County system, SurfSimple Mapstorm, lets residents register online or by phone multiple ways to reach them, including cell phones, fax machines, e-mail, pagers, Blackberry addresses and office voicemail.

"The main advantage of this system is that people can be reached on the go on their cell phones and Blackberry devices. It doesn't rely on landline phones, which many people don't have these days," D'Evelyn said. "But the key is, people have to register."

To sign up for Emergency System Notification or update contact information, residents should go to ycsoaz.gov and click the ENS link found on the lower right side of the page. Users will be taken to the ENS homepage, which provides a detailed explanation of the program.

At the bottom of the page, click on the "Community Tool" link to register your personal information or "Business Tool" link to register your company's information. Both links will direct you to a web page where you can enter your electronic notification information.

In the center of the page, you can enter your name, address and information about how many people are in your home. There is also a text area to type in instructions for first responders or medical conditions for people in your home, such as "Elderly parent at residence. Assistance needed with evacuation."

Along the right side of the page, you can enter your e-mail address, as well as numbers for your home and cell phone, Blackberry devices, work, fax and pager.

If you don't have access to a computer, call the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office Records Section or Crime Prevention Office for help registering at 771-3260 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"People who are not comfortable using the computer can call, and we'll walk them through the registration process to get their information into our system," D'Evelyn said. "We'll also make sure information they need in the text area, like an elderly or disabled person at their residence who may need assistance during an evacuation, gets in there as well."

D'Evelyn urges all Yavapai County residents to register for the free service.

"We would also hope that people who have neighbors who don't have access to phones would contact them to make sure they were aware of the alert," D'Evelyn said. "That's another thing we're counting on, too."

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