Reverse 911 Worked During Gas Line Rupture In South Montgomery County

High Praise For Reverse 911 Calls During Gas Line Rupture
High Praise For Reverse 911 Calls During Gas Line Rupture

For Montgomery County Interim EMA Director Steve Jones, it's really a simple process.

"Extract the names and hit send," Jones said as he demonstrated how he pulled up names and phone numbers on his computer.

Tuesday night Jones hit 'send' and hundreds of residents who chose not to evacuate in a mile-and-a-half-radius in Snowdoun heard Jones' voice informing them the broken line had been repaired and it was safe to return home. The driver of an SUV struck the line at the corner of Butler Mill Road and Old McGhee Road.  The suspect left the vehicle and walked away.

"The real danger was a massive explosion," said Montgomery County Sheriff D.T. Marshall.

With that in mind you may wonder why Jones didn't use the 'reverse' 911 to tell nearby residents about the rupture in the beginning and evacuate. Instead, Sheriff's deputies did that job. They went door-to-door. Jones says there's a reason for that.

"First of all, we have to explain what the safest route is. If you pull out of your driveway and turn right when in fact you should have turned left, you could put yourself in harm's way and in that case you would be better off staying at home. Also, law enforcement was much closer to the scene than I was," said Jones.

Less than a half mile from the scene one homeowner voluntarily evacuated but tells WSFA 12 News his answering machine never got the call, the message that all was safe. That homeowner declined to be interviewed but Jones says while the reverse 911 is highly sophisticated, it's not fool-proof.

"People move in and people move out. We update our numbers on a quarterly basis. Our success rate in reaching people is about 96%," said Jones.

"It turned out to be a real good exercise for us," said Sheriff Marshall.

All in all a thumbs up for Steve Jones and the reverse 911 mechanism. It appears the overwhelming majority got the call, those who didn't evacuate and those who huddled in a nearby shelter. The system didn't blow up and neither did the gas line.

Investigators recovered the damaged SUV but no sign of the driver as of this report.

Jones, meantime, says the EMA will email and text message people with general information such as traffic and weather issues. If you want to sign up for that service log on to and pull down the Emergency Management Agency tab.