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‘In Case of Emergency’: Snohomish County helicopter takes to sky — to get word out

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PARELLASNOHOMISH COUNTY — The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is taking another step toward alerting the community during a natural disaster, and other emergencies.

Chief Pilot Bill Quistorf is overseeing the testing of an L.R.A.D or ‘Long Range Acoustic Device.’ It can be heard over a mile away, but because of its weight can only be carried by larger aircrafts in King and Snohomish county. It’s a system that is very needed in this area, according to Quistorf. “There was an example a couple of years ago on Mount Rainier when there was an active shooter and a ranger was killed. The helicopters on station didn’t have an effective way to notify campers that there was an active shooter on the mountain. And, so they came up with a pretty ingenious solution – wrote a message on Dixie cups and drop those to the campers that they could find, but the question is how can we effectively get to people in the back country and notify them in an emergency.”

Today is just a test flight, however. If the L.R.A.D. system meets the counties standards, they will apply for a grant and hope to have it in operation next year. They can use it for all sorts of things including alerting the public to dangers due to wildfires and flooding.

“Reverse 911 works well, but if people aren’t inside to answer their phones or if they’ve strictly got cell phones in their homes than it’s difficult to notify them so having a mobile emergency notification system mounted onto a helicopter is ideal,” explains Quistorf.

The test mission was completed after a fly over Everett’s courthouse. The test message broadcast through the high-powered haler was heard loud and clear by people on the ground. Now Snohomish County hoped their message of need for such equipment is also heard loud and clear by those writing grants next year.