DANVILLE - Fear spread quickly through this sleepy town when Paul McDonald bludgeoned his Danville landlord with a hammer in 2008.
Police converged on the residence where yellow police tape was strung up around the grisly murder scene.
Residents feared a killer was running loose in their neighborhood.
At the time, the town had no system to instantly notify residents about what was happening.
But that's about to change thanks to a new mass notification system launched last week.
The town is now using CodeRED, a system that allows town officials, police, and fire to call the entire community with vital information efficiently. They can instantly send messages out to the public about emergencies, road closures, weather, and other situations on landline phones, mobile phones and other devices. They can also e-mail and text the messages.
"The system is a means for area officials to get into contact with residents quickly to disseminate information. The system can be used to send targeted messages to a particular area of town. Information such as a leaky propane tank can create a message going to residents within a half-mile radius from a critical area, road closures, accidents resulting in roads to avoid, etc.," said Selectman Shawn O'Neil, the town's emergency management director.
Police Chief Wade Parsons said he approached selectmen with the idea of launching the system about a year ago. It will cost just over $3,000 a year, he said.
Parsons said the system would have been especially helpful during the McDonald murder investigation.
"There was a lot of concern because roads were closed and helicopters were flying overhead," he said. "That would have been a perfect opportunity to get the information out to let people know that the community wasn't in any danger at that point."
The system's launch was moved up due to last week's blizzard and would have been used to update residents on power outages, but the lights stayed on even with snowfall totals of around two feet.
The initial message delivered to residents directed them to the town's website, www.townofdanville.org, where they can add additional contact numbers. It also asked residents to get the word out by telling family, friends and neighbors about the system.
O'Neil urged all individuals and businesses to visit the website to add their cell phone numbers and "non-traditional phones" as well as e-mail and text addresses.
Those whose contact information isn't in the database will not receive messages.
Businesses and residents who have unlisted phone numbers or have changed their phone number recently, and those who use only cell phones or have VoIP phones, such as Vonage, as their primary numbers should register, O'Neil said.
Those without Internet access are asked to call the selectmen's office at 382-8253, ext. 3, during business hours to request data entry.
Anyone with questions should contact O'Neil at email@example.com