On the Line

Child abduction cases, along with crowd control and hurricane warnings, are among the most common uses for IntelliCast Target Notification, a telephone-based warning service operated by Intrado Inc.

The subscription service was developed to quickly and efficiently send notifications to the 270,000 residents of the city and county of Boulder, Colo.

Boulder County used the system to warn residents of bears on the loose, riots at the university, a dangerous felon's escape and a hostage situation in the community.

Intrado has a massive database of listed and unlisted phone numbers throughout the country, and during an emergency, the company can use IntelliCast to notify residents of impending danger by ringing the telephone and playing a taped message.

"Here in Boulder, our students from the University of Colorado tend to riot [after football games] whether there's a win or a loss," said Mark Scott, vice president of government markets for Intrado. "That was one of the early deployments. We called all the households to tell the citizens, 'Don't go outside. Close the doors and windows because they're going to deploy tear gas."'

Intrado developed relationships with the National Crime Prevention Council, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which helps law enforcement agencies acquire the funding necessary to use solutions such as IntelliCast.

"[The Center] helps provide funding both to get the system set up and in conjunction with us for finding missing and abducted children," Scott said. "That would be one of the more prevalent applications."

Not only is the system valuable for helping to locate missing children, it can stave off an Amber Alert, which is beneficial for law enforcement and residents alike.

When a 911 call comes in for a missing child, an officer immediately is dispatched to validate whether the child has been abducted. If it is considered an abduction, the wheels of an Amber Alert are set in motion. The time it takes to launch an Amber Alert can be 45 minutes to 2 hours.

In the interim, IntelliCast can saturate the area with phone calls relaying a taped message of the missing child account. "This has worked successfully numerous times," Scott said. "Where it's worked most successfully has been in cases where they've recovered a child before the Amber Alert has gone off. That's what The Center for Missing and Exploited Children is most excited about. They don't want to alarm the community unnecessarily. The second thing is they don't want to cry wolf with Amber."

Earlier this year, an IntelliCast alert helped locate a missing child just minutes before an Amber Alert was launched. Scott said the system is being deployed throughout the United States.

Community Alert

Medina, an affluent community of about 4,000 residents near Seattle, experienced a rash of burglaries in 2002 that prompted one resident to approach Police Chief Michael Knapp and suggest a way for the department to communicate with residents: e-mail.

Hence the birth of the police department's community E-Lert program, designed to alert residents of criminal or suspicious activity in their neighborhoods through e-mail.

About 1,000 residents signed up for the alert, which recently won the American Society of Industrial Security award for community partnerships.

"We trademarked the name, just so we could put some context into how it was developed," Knapp said. Now he's getting calls from Seattle and North Carolina, among others, that are interested in the program.

"That's the wonderful thing about E-Lert. The e-mail program can handle millions of people," Knapp said. "You can make a large city small in a hurry by reaching out almost instantly to the community."

The program can be segmented too, reaching only portions of the community,

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor