Reverse 911 is put to the test in Gilbert, AZ


ChromisZach here. I live in Gilbert, AZ, which is a suburb in the East Valley of Phoenix. It ranks number 23 among the safest cities in America according to the results of CQ Press’s 15th annual Safest City Award rankings. The report ranks 397 American cities in six different crime areas — murder, rape, burglary, robbery, aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft. The end result of these rankings are used to compile the list of the safest cities in America. So when I received a “Reverse 911” call yesterday afternoon, I gotta say I was both shocked and impressed.

I was shocked because a shooting had taken place around 11:30 a.m. yesterday morning in the affluent subdivision which I happen to live next to. (VoIP has been good to me, but not that good.) Click here if you want the details of the shooting, I won’t go into it any further, it’s getting more strange by the hour. The house where the incident occurred is about 2-3 blocks from my home, and I drive by frequently as it’s off of one of the main arteries that leads you out of the subdivision to the main road. I had initially heard about the incident from my next door neighbor who called me after he had spoken with his wife who had driven down the street after picking up their kids from pre-school around noon. She saw Police cars and firetrucks and was pointing them out to her 3 year old son when she saw a Policeman running down the street with a shotgun. She quickly turned around and made it home shortly after using another entrance.

Shortly after I heard from the neighbor, our phone rang with a strange caller ID name: “REVERSE911 CALL”. Obviously I was a little taken aback and anxiously answered the call. A prerecord announcement played: “This is the Gilbert Police Department with a safety announcement. We are working a shooting in the area of Arroyo and Pinion. Please remain indoors at this time and report any suspicious activity to the Gilbert Police Department.” Not a great feeling to be cooped up with little information in your home with the surrounding streets blocked off. So my wife and I had lunch and went about our day. Shortly before 2:00 p.m. we received another prerecorded message giving us the all clear, letting us know that it was now safe to go outside.

I was impressed because the Reverse 911 system that the city employed worked and moreover worked well. We weren’t fed a whole lot of information, but it was reassuring to have even that small little nugget. Since I had never heard of this service before, I went to my good friends over at Google and they did a search for me. 🙂 According to the REVERSE 911 Website: “The REVERSE 911 Interactive Community Notification System is an outbound notification system used for time-sensitive mass distribution of messages. The system is particularly effective in times of crisis when rapid communication to a targeted group of citizens or emergency responders is critical.”

Being the kind of guy that I am, I was curious to know what kind of  technology is under the hood… Just what are my tax dollars paying for? But after a few minutes of poking around the site I thought to myself, do I or should I care? Because really, it was effective in this situation, and has proven to be in others as well. (The website also lists a gaggle of “success stories“.) So I abandoned my search and let a sleeping dog lie. But as a taxpaying resident, kudos to the City of Gilbert and their choice to use those tax dollars towards something useful, a service that could potentially save lives… Even though the city is one of the safest, I’m still glad to know that when it all goes down, my phone will ring…