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Daily News Archive

Reverse 911 System Used For Pre-Notification of Pesticide Spraying
(Beyond Pesticides, September 27, 2004)
Onondaga Health Department in upstate New York responds positively to public demand for pre-notification of any pesticide spraying for mosquitoes by utilizing a reverse 911 phone system.

In August, the upstate New York County of Onondaga, which engulfs Syracuse, has found a number of positive mosquito pools for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). The County Health Department immediately began an extensive pesticide spraying program and was providing 24-hour notice for residents in the affected areas. The 24-hour notice stopped when the County discovered infected pools near the State Fair, according to Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE). When trucks spewing hazardous pesticides began coming down residential streets people were outraged that they had not received any warning. The outrage turned to action and the County was flooded with calls and scolded in the local press.

Responding to the public outcries for improved toxic pesticide spray notification the County Health Department began using a reverse 911 system. The system was originally used, successfully, to help track missing children. As far as Beyond Pesticides can tell, Onondaga County is the first county in the country to use a reverse 911 public notification tool for pesticide spraying. Using the system, residents in the affected areas receive a telephone call with a pre-recorded message that states where and at what time spraying will commence, precautionary measures residents should take to reduce risks of exposure to the pesticides, and the Health Department’s phone number for additional information.

“Onondaga County Health Department and others involved should be applauded for their leadership responding to public demand for improved public notification about toxic pesticide spraying,” says Dereth Glance of CCE. “By using a combination of media and direct outreach, like the reverse 911 system, citizens will be forewarned and will be able to take precautions to reduce their family’s exposure to toxic pesticides.”

In an effort to develop an ever-improving effective and safe vector control program, CCE also announced that the organization is recommending the Health Department create a Citizen Advisory Committee as a beneficial mechanism to increase public input and education on important matters of environmental and public health protection. “Citizen Advisory Committees are utilized throughout the state as a successful mechanism to enhance community input into important policy decisions,” Glance added.

TAKE ACTION: The utilization of a reverse 911 system in your area may ensure that people who have opt-ed out of the government’s spray program is respected. Contact your local health department about adoption of the technology. For more information on Onondaga’s system, contact the health department by phone at 212- 435-3252. For alternatives to spraying and models used by other communities, see our West Nile virus Tools for Activists page.