By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS — Phones in residences throughout the city rang Tuesday like a familiar television statement: “This is only a test.”

That’s when the Harker Heights Fire Department tested its emergency First Call system, which alerts residents of dangerous situations.

The call system rang more than 9,000 residents, said Glenn Gallenstein, Harker Heights deputy fire chief. Of those calls, 6,847 residents were contacted, Gallenstein said. The rest either did not answer the phone or an answering machine answered the call, he said.

“The first call system is designed to where it can call residents in any area or in the entire city,” Gallenstein said.

The numbers used for the test were phones in the Bell County database, Gallenstein said. Anyone who didn’t receive at least an attempted call is not in that database.

Some people may not have home phones, but can sign up for the emergency messages by filling out information on the city’s Web site,, Gallenstein said.

They can also provide an e-mail address that will let residents receive notices about the emergencies, Gallenstein said.

The call system will help the fire department as well as other emergency organizations alert residents of dangers like tornados, chemical spills, outspread fires, terrorist attacks and more, Gallenstein said. Along with message often will be instructions on what to do.

The systems also notifies the Fire Department of who did not answer their phones, Gallenstein said. This function will allow emergency teams to visit houses in matters of extreme danger to locate people that maybe at risk.

The Harker Heights Public Works Department has also been using the first call system to notify people of water main breaks, power outages and just when they are working on the utilities in the area, Gallenstein said.

“It works great,” said Mark Hyde, public works director. “We have used it several times on water related issues.”

Because of how the system is set up, you can call a single street of residents or the entire city, Hyde said.

Harker Heights purchased the system because it lets the city warn residents inside the home instead of just outside, like sirens, Gallenstein said.

“Sirens are meant for outdoors and large gatherings,” Gallenstein said. “People inside many times will not hear the sirens. This system allows us to notify people inside a structure.”

Both Gallenstein and Hyde have been impressed with the use of the new system the city purchased about six months ago.

“It is a very good tool,” Hyde said. “It is great. I really like it. It is fast and effective.”

Contact Mason W. Canales at or (254) 501-7554.

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