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Code Red system worked last week

Reverse 911 used to find missing teen

November 25, 2010
HAVERHILL–Last week when a 16-year old girl was reported missing, the Haverhill Police Department put out an automated "Code Red" call, which enabled the girl to be found quickly.

Calls started coming in within two minutes, police said.

This is the second time recently the Haverhill police have used the automated Code Red call system, sometimes called reverse 911, and is one of many times the system, operated by the Grafton County Sheriff's Department Dispatch Center, has been used throughout the county.

The system has been in use for about a year in Grafton County, according to Douglas Brown, a communications supervisor with Grafton County Sheriff's Department Communications Division. It allows emergency services such as the police or fire departments to send out an automated message to all homes—or even cell phones or emails to those who register for such contact—in a certain area.

The calls can be sent to those on a specific street, a town, or within a particular distance of a certain point, Brown said. It can be used to inform people of a dangerous fire; a dam bursting; a bridge that is out; a missing person, such as last week; or a dangerous person on the loose.

A version of it is even used to inform families in Lisbon of snow days, Brown said. That message is only sent to homes with students in it.

Acting Haverhill Police Chief Bryon Charles noted his department has used it for several of these eventualities. It has been used for a missing young child, for the missing teen last week and a few months ago for a man who had run from the scene of a crime with a gun after driving a stolen vehicle into Haverhill from Vermont.

The system can send up to a 90-second message, though police keep it as short as possible, Brown said. It can be used to send a specific message such as an Amber Alert, which is only used in the case of a child abduction case, when specific information is available that an abduction has taken place and that the child is in imminent danger of harm. A description of the child as well as the perpetrator and vehicle is sent out by phone and email.

While the system can contact all listed and unlisted numbers in an area, authorities prefer residents register, especially as cell phones, email and text messages can then be added to the system.

For information on how to register, residents are encouraged to go to http://graftoncountysheriff.net/ or http://www.coderedweb.com.

Martin Lord Osman
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