City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says officials are cutting back a bit on their use of the new mass notification system Evanston contracted for earlier this year.

Bobkiewicz told aldermen earlier this week that the city received six requests after the February blizzard from residents asking to be removed from the database that sends robo-calls to phones across town during an emergency.

He said the city used the system three times during that storm and that was perhaps once too often.

The system can also be used to send out more targeted messages to people within a certain radius of an event, and that he’s decided to tighten the radius for those calls as well.

When there was a shooting at the McDonald’s on Dempster Street, residents within a half-mile radius received calls.

“We got two different kinds of calls back after that event,” Bobkiewicz said. “People close by thanked us for it. People further away said ‘Why are you bothering me?'”

Since then, he said, the system has been used for localized incidents six more times, with the calling radius limited to a quarter mile, “and we haven’t gotten any further complaints.”

Residents can manage their emergency notification settings on the city’s website. The options include having calls sent to mobile phones and being sent text messages.

Bobkiewicz says the system now uses a white-pages pages phone database to determine what numbers to call and residents can opt out from receiving calls from that database.

The city plans to upgrade the system to use a phone company database used to identify calls to 911 centers. Bobkiewicz said that database is more comprehensive, but residents won’t be able to opt out from that database.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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