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If you’re perplexed by the Durham alerts, reply YES to confirm


When you get a text message from Alert Durham, do you really need to reply?

A storm is brewing, threatening disaster. Your phone buzzes with an urgent message from Alert Durham warning you of chaos that lies ahead. But it closes with an odd request:

“Reply with YES to confirm receipt.”

Seriously, Alert Durham? There’s no time to chat while preparing for an apparent apocalypse! Why does someone need to reply?

The same thing happens with the email alert. “This is an important message from Alert Durham!” the message says. “Please click here to acknowledge receipt of this message.

Alert Durham is a service of the city-county emergency office that provides text messages, emails and phone calls that warn about dangers such as flash floods, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

But why is it so nosey? Why does Durham need to know if people received the message? And do they ever answer?

According to Jim Groves, director of Durham’s Emergency Management Center, “the vast majority of folks don’t respond.”

Groves explained that the purpose of these messages is so that the notification system knows not to contact your other devices once you’ve confirmed the receipt of one. So if you’ve signed up for Alert Durham texts, emails, and calls, the email and call will be blocked if you reply “Yes” to the text first.

And don’t worry if you’ve replied with wisecracks. Groves assured The 9th Street Journal that the only texts Alert Durham processes are ones with the word “Yes,” so if you’ve been sending in longing messages about how emotionally exhausted you are from the exchange, Alert Durham has not been listening.

Everbridge, the critical event managing platform that provides alert systems to Durham as well as several counties in the research triangle, has a vast network of call centers that make it reliable even throughout tough weather.

The company began operations in 2002, in the wake of 9/11, with the mission of notifying people of critical information throughout a disaster. Its alert system operates globally, and served a crucial role in emergency relief efforts throughout Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombings.

Even though relatively few people click to confirm or text YES to reply, those that do avoid getting duplicate messages. And during the storms prompted by Florence last weekend, Groves said, “the system worked flawlessly.”