On the night of Jan. 17, Cherry Hill Police received a missing persons report. In the past, police would have had to make individual phone calls, visits to residents and depend on email and social media alerts to help locate the person.
However, the police’s newest emergency notification system, CodeRed, has changed everything.
Cherry Hill Township unveiled a new emergency alert system called CodeRed on Jan. 14 that allows residents and business owners to receive texts, emails and social media alerts directly to their phone or other device.
Just days after its launch, CodeRed played a large part in helping locate a missing person.
Police received a missing persons report late on Jan. 17, at a time when many residents were asleep. Lt. Amy Winters of the Cherry Hill Police Department said CodeRed gave police the ability to alert residents in a general area where they believed the man was. A reverse 9–1–1 call was sent out to residents in the neighborhood.
“You can have pre-defined geographical areas,” Winters said. “We did have an endangered missing person, and we wanted to alert the residents in the neighborhood.”
The ability to alert residents quickly freed up police officers to actively search for the man, who was located safely later that night.
“We had a lot of success,” Winters said. “We did receive a lot of positive feedback.”
Saturday’s missing persons search is just one way CodeRed can be used to help the public. Notifications are sent about traffic accidents, weather updates, road closures and more.
“We don’t have to deplete police resources now,” Winters said. “We’re able to notify residents or businesses about an emergency quickly.”
The system has the ability to send thousands of alerts to subscribers in an instant. Winters said the police department couldn’t send alerts out as swiftly or to as many people in the past.
“We may not have access to everyone’s phone number or we may not have time to contact everyone,” she said.
In addition to text and email alerts, the township can also do a reverse 9–1–1 call for more serious situations. Township director of communication Bridget Palmer said the reverse 9–1–1 is used in more serious situations, such as with the missing person on Jan. 17.
“It’d be missing persons or if we had some kind of evacuation,” Palmer said.
The township plans to submit alerts for specific neighborhoods more frequently with CodeRed. Alerts such as traffic accidents and road work can be tailored to residents near the affected area. Palmer said this is crucial because of Cherry Hill’s size.
“You can drop a pin and draw out a two-mile radius around the site,” Palmer said. “You have the ability to better geographically target your notifications.”
With the system now online, township officials have been working on getting residents enrolled. Residents with listed landlines are enrolled automatically, but residents with unlisted numbers or those who want their cell phone enrolled in the system must do so manually. Business owners or workers can also enroll.
The township’s goal is to eventually get all residents into the system.
“We want to see ultimately is that everybody enrolls,” Palmer said.