There has been a surge in sign-ups for AtHoc, the Army mass warning system, post Hurricane Florence.
According to Donald Mollett, protection chief, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS), there were about 13,000 contacts in the roster before the storm. Since the hurricane, the numbers have increased to more than 17,000 contacts.
“(AtHoc) tells you what’s open on post, when the post is closed, when the post is opening back up; all those types of messages we were pushing,” Mollett said. AtHoc messages include information on schools being closed, road closures, gas stations that have gas, or the business hours for shops on post.
He said people in the Fort Bragg community quickly realized the usefulness of AtHoc in conjunction to all utilizing a variety of social media platforms regulated by the installation’s public affairs personnel.
“It’s there to provide that immediate information in a state of emergency or a critical situation, so that people can get the best information at hand to be able to react to it,” Mollett said.
AtHoc is a mass notification system that is capable of reaching and touching several thousands of people simultaneously through various devices. These methods of outreach include desktop pop-ups on government networks, emails and phone texts, according to Calvin McKenzie, mass warning and notification specialist at DPTMS.
This system has only been in place in the last decade and was conceived after the 2009 Nidal Malik Hassan incident in Texas.
“There was a shooting incident that took place in Fort Hood several years ago,” McKenzie said.
After the incident, McKenzie said the secretary of defense commissioned a task force to conduct an after action review. One of the recommendations was to establish a mass notification system that could warn a significant number of personnel quickly.
“So the Department of the Army got together and came up with AtHoc,” he said.
AtHoc is a far-reaching and vital component to the Army when it comes to events that involves life, health, safety and as a recall mechanism for organizations.
“If a division is getting deployed and they need to bring their people in, they can bring them in using AtHoc,” McKenzie said.
Unfortunately, there are no regulatory requirements that makes an active-duty Soldier sign up for AtHoc, said Mollett.
“If you want to receive the alerts, you have to participate in the system,” Mollett said. “We are working on getting that changed with a policy letter signed by the senior commander saying if you fit within (certain) categories, you have no choice; you will sign up for AtHoc. We are not there yet, but that’s something we are striving to get to when we get down the road.”
The system is used only as an emergency notification process. What AtHoc is not geared to do, said Mollett, is to push out alerts for fundraisers such as bake sales and car washes.
“If you overuse it for the wrong messaging, people start to ignore or start opting out of it,” he said.
There was, however, a concern with the amount and length of notifications people were receiving during Florence.
“The leadership here decided that it was better to give too much information than to give not enough information,” said McKenzie.
Everyone that has a tie to the Fort Bragg population is encouraged to sign up.
To sign up for AtHoc mass warning notifications or opt out for an already existing account, email firstname.lastname@example.org on how you’d like to be contacted.
For more information on AtHoc, visit www.bragg.army.mil/index/php/about/ready-bragg.