Just in time for the snowfall that began Monday night and became a blizzard by Tuesday afternoon (after this paper went to press), the City implemented a mass-notification system that had been in the works for several months.

At a special City Council meeting on Jan. 31, City officials said that they had obtained about 70 percent of the land-lines in the City – about 20,000. These phone numbers will receive an automatic phone call from the City in case of a Citywide alert or emergency, such as the blizzard expected to hit hardest today.

“What will the Caller ID register as the name?” asked Alderman Ann Rainey, 8ht Ward. “City of Evanston City Manager’s office,” said Joe McRae, assistant to the City Manager.

“We have the option to change that,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. “We could have it say ‘City of Evanston alert.’”

All residents will receive these alert/emergency calls, and they may also opt in to receive additional, more specific non-emergency alerts, such as alerts for a specific area of the City and information about community events, public meetings of neighborhoods, wards or committees. A fourth level, not available publicly, is a “call-down” drill notification, such as when overtime workers or trained citizen volunteers are needed.

City staff appeared ready to meet the challenge of keeping residents alert during the blizzard conditions that were expected to continue through today. (See sidebar on 9 a.m. storm update for an analysis of the calls.)