School on lockdown. Streets flooded and closed. Large cloud of smoke in area. Helicopter circling overhead. Wouldn’t we all like to know what is going on if these types of incidents happen in our community? In this technology driven society, when dangerous or critical incidents happen, most of us will reach for our smart phones and start looking for answers. Wouldn’t it be great if the information came to our phones instead of having to search Twitter or Facebook or wait for the news to broadcast what is happening on our block? There is a system in place that can help deliver emergency information directly from law enforcement and fire agencies in the Maricopa Region (which extends from Wickenburg to Apache Junction). This system is called CENS.
CENS is the Community Emergency Notification System. The system is designed to rapidly notify an affected area of an emergency by sending a recorded message through the telephone system. CENS uses their 911 database to extract phone numbers determined by the area affected on the CENS map. The area will receive notifications will be determined by the agency that is making the community notification. This area can be narrowed down to a few blocks and extended out to cross city boundaries.
CENS then launches a prerecorded message to the telephone numbers in the area defined. Each notification call content will be different. The primary agency handling the emergency will make the recording you will hear. It is important to listen to the complete message and follow the instructions on the recording. This will ensure you have received complete information and will also stop the system from making repeat calls until the original notification is updated or cancelled.
CENS is able to send messages to the users in English and Spanish, as well as to hearing impaired users with a TTY message.
The CENS 911 database is only accessible to law enforcement and fire agencies for notifications. This 911 database is not utilized for any other purpose. Residents that add or change information for a land line phone serviced by Qwest, Cox or other local phone companies will automatically have the information updated within the 911 database. Residents that want to self register their Cell or VoIP phones can do this at
This link will explain more about CENS and also has an example of the registration process so you can understand it step-by-step before you begin registering your cell or VoIP. You may register multiple phones to a specific location, so more than one family member can receive information. You can also register one phone number to multiple locations, so you can receive notifications for your work, home and your child’s school.
CENS is a valuable resource to our community. It is one more piece of technology that can help first responders and emergency call centers streamline how information is disseminated to citizens. This will increase awareness, communication and build relationships between first responders and the members of our communities.
Any questions relating to CENS, please email Reverse911@phoenix.gov.