In April, then outgoing Village Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) questioned why an Everbridge Alert was sent to residents at 1 a.m. to warn about a thunderstorm. In May, Trustee Robert Streit (Dist 3) brought up Everbridge and another problem with alerts.
On May 22nd, the Village sent out an Everbridge alert warning residents about an armed suspect in the vicinity of 103rd & Central, urging residents to stay indoors. Trustee Robert Streit (District 3) brought up issues and concerns expressed by many residents in light of that alert.
“For some reason, many people that should have received the alert did not,” Streit said. “Some people are outraged because they didn’t get the alert, even though they live in the area. Other people who were not in the area received the alert on their cell phone, but their loved ones just down the street from the alert did not receive the alert on their landline at home.”
“At that meeting,” Streit went on to say, “I recommended that the board address policy issues, including addressing the problems with the Everbridge system.”
While both Mayor Sandra Bury and Village Manager Larry Deetjen defended the 1 a.m. message that Quinlan referenced, Deetjen promised the board in May that the issues would be studied.
In less than a month, the study was completed and interim 911 Emergency Communications Director, Bill Villanova made a presentation to the board acknowledging problems with the system and explaining what changes were made after discussions between the village and the vendor.
Villanova said that the original system was instituted in 2011 and now has been updated in 2015. He said that individual subscribers will be able to select when they want to hear weather messages like the message Quinlan had complained about. The only exception to that rule is that everyone will receive tornado warnings. Villanova said the company has agreed to correct a big problem from the past in which the same people who receive the initial message will receive any follow up message. In the past, he acknowledged that wasn’t always the case. Villanova said that they were looking to take some of the human hands out of the decision making process.
Villanova called it “interesting” that only 6,000 phones are in the system even though Oak Lawn and surrounding communities have tens of thousands of phone lines eligible to sign up according to Villanova. Speculation in the past for low participation has centered around accusations that a former Trustee used the list for a political email. The village denied the charges at the time.
Villanova said that the “opt in recipients” will be able to select what they want to know about and are able to opt out of community messages. Villanova said that “migration will occur automatically” but residents can update the service. He called the process “an upgrade to the system.”
Villanova responded to questions from board members after stating that the changes to the system will “hopefully resolve the issues we’ve had and not have them any more.”
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) thanked Villanova for the presentation but Villanova did not agree with Olejniczak’s attempts to blame residents for entering incorrect data. Villanova also corrected Olejniczak’s assertion that the village has made every upgrade to the system in the past. Villanova, who is the former Police Chief, noted that this upgrade is the first one that has been offered.
Trustee Robert Streit (Dist. 3) thanked Villanova and Oak Lawn’s current police chief, Michael Murray, for the presentation and for acknowledging the problems and providing solutions.
At the May meeting, in referencing the problems with the alerts sent regarding an armed gunman at 103rd and Central, Streit told the board, “These issues must be addressed by the board and fixed before the system that is designed to help people actually leads to tragedy.”
He said that he was pleased that Villanova and Murray had worked to correct the problems and he is optimistic that the system will be a big improvement for the residents.