West Tisbury prepares to join Island-wide warning system

West Tisbury officials last week considered protocols and procedures for an Island-wide emergency notification system the town expects to join this month. Called “Code Red,” the system, operated by the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department, sends an alert over cell phones and landlines.

John Christensen, West Tisbury emergency management director, briefed town officials at the selectmen’s meeting June 23.

Although West Tisbury officials expect that the town’s police and fire chiefs would have the authority to activate the web–based computer program, the selectmen considered their own appropriate role in the activation process during an emergency.

Mr. Christensen said that the Code Red technology is capable of rapidly placing thousands of telephone calls to landlines and cell phones warning of a community danger. Using the white pages and the existing 911 database, the system would now be able to reach approximately 60 percent of the Island’s residents or only specific areas of the Island, as appropriate to the situation.

“The system is live, and it works,” Mr. Christensen said. Now the goal is to increase the Island-wide database to 90 percent of residents.

Whether year-round or seasonal, residents may add contact information to the database by accessing the West Tisbury website. By clicking on the designated Code Red icon, a resident may add information on additional telephone lines, as well as email and text messaging addresses to be notified of a threat to community safety. If a resident’s data is already in the system, duplications will be automatically eliminated.

Selectman Richard Knabel said, “It is easy to sign up. I [did]it on the first try.” West Tisbury has budgeted $2,145 (or 81 cents per year-round resident) annually for its portion of the Island cost of using the Code Red system.

The program will be rolled out slowly, Mr. Christiansen said, with a test run to be scheduled for July.

In an emergency, the designated officials with activation authority would log into the system, provide a password, pin number, and then a launch code in order to trigger the system to make notifications. “We do not want to do it by mistake,” Mr. Christiansen said, explaining the need for the four-step process.

“It does feel like we are launching a missile,” selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter said with a smile.

The selectmen took the protocol request under consideration.

Ancient ways added

In other business, following a joint meeting with the town’s planning board and byways committee members, the selectmen unanimously agreed to refer to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) the request that four ancient ways be added to the town’s district of critical planning concern (DCPC). The roads are Red Coat Hill, Motts Hill, Shubael Weeks Path, and Pine Hill. Town administrator Jennifer Rand told the selectmen that she had received two letters and a telephone call from abutting property owners in favor of the DCPC application. Ms. Rand also told those in attendance that the MVC will schedule a public hearing during the consideration process.

Bob Woodruff, chairman of the Mill Pond Committee, presented a draft of the request for proposal (RFP) the committee is preparing to begin the process of hiring a consultant to determine the best course of action for preserving the historic pond. Barbara Day has also been added to that committee. Ms. Rand will be working with Mr. Woodruff and the committee to finalize the language defining the evaluation criteria to be used in the selection process.

The selectmen authorized Ms. Rand to select two other town hall employees to serve on a committee to interview applicants for the newly created position of administrative assistant. After the committee’s review, it will make a recommendation to the selectmen.

Selectmen Cynthia Mitchell and Mr. Knabel approved the appointment of acting police chief Dan Rossi to the position of town truant officer. Mr. Manter, a police officer, abstained.

And the selectmen unanimously approved the creation of a new town hall art committee. The three-member panel is charged with “deciding what art is to be hung and where,” according to Mr. Manter. Works of art may be donated or loaned to the town.