NORTH TOWANDA TOWNSHIP - Bradford County officials on Wednesday conducted the first county-wide test of the county's new CodeRED system, which notifies the public in the event of emergencies, such as expected flash flooding, a boil water advisory, or a report of a missing child.

As part of the test, a pre-recorded voice message was sent to every land-line phone in the county, unless a resident had opted out of having his phone receive notifications through the CodeRED system, said Robert Barnes, Bradford County public safety director.

The voice message was also sent to the approximately 500 cell phones that residents have registered to receive CodeRED notifications, he said.

One of the main purposes of the test was to determine how fast the county can send out emergency notifications without overloading the telephone system in the county, he said.

"We're very happy with the results" of Wednesday's test, Barnes said.

The CodeRED system is now operational, he said.

Wednesday's test involved sending a voice message, which was one minute, 20 seconds long, to over 38,000 phones in the county, Barnes said. The test began at approximately 2 p.m., and 21 minutes later all the phones had been contacted, Barnes said.

"I'm impressed with how many (calls) have gone out so far," Bradford County Emergency Management Director John Ambrusch III said during the test.

For several reasons, the rate at which calls will be sent out in real situations will be faster that it was during the test, Barnes said.

First, the test message was unusually long, and a shorter message - which might be 30 seconds long - can be sent out much more quickly, he said.

In addition, some of the time during the 21-minute test was spent testing and evaluating the phone system, and that testing would not be taking place when a real message was being sent out, he said.

Another purpose of the test was to weed out inaccuracies in the county's database of phone numbers, said Ed Hunt, an account representative with Emergency Communications Network LLC, which is the company that will be managing the CodeRED system for the county. "We don't want to call numbers that don't exist," he said.

Weeding out incorrect numbers, disconnected numbers, and dedicated fax lines from the county's database of phone numbers - which the county will be doing in the coming weeks - will make the speed at which messages are sent out even faster, Barnes said.

The test message that was sent out on Wednesday was intended to be educational for residents, Hunt said.

Part of the Wednesday's test message stated: "This is a test of the CodeRED emergency notification service ... Bradford County now uses CodeRED for notifications to the general public and a (CodeRED) weather warning service to alert citizens of severe thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes. Additional alerts can be selected by individual residents by registering to receive selected warnings on the county webpage. We encourage all residents and businesses to go to the county website at www.bradfordcountypa.org, click on CodeRED in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, and enter their contact information, including additional phone numbers, text, and email addresses, to ensure all of the data in our system is accurate and current. When you sign up, you may choose which type of warnings you would like to receive. This is a public service provided by the county; there is no charge."

So far, 961 residents and businesses have signed up to receive emergency notification messages through the CodeRED system, county officials said.

"We'd like everyone to sign up" at the county website to receive CodeRED messages, Barnes said.

The more people who register their cell phones with CodeRED, the more effective the CodeRED system will be, he explained.

Barnes noted that residents need to sign up to receive warnings of severe weather, such as flash floods and tornadoes, and the best way sign up for those alerts is to register at the county website, he said.

In Wednesday's test of the CodeRED system, only voice messages were sent out, Hunt said. However, in a real situation, email and text messages would have also been sent out, he said.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.