January 21, 2004
Agency will use Message 911 to alert citizens
Once just a plan to notify youth sports teams of schedule changes, an Augusta telecommunications company is creating systems to assist in homeland security.
CallingPost Communications Inc. is a company that connects one person to many with one phone call.
"You can easily spend an hour calling 15 people or more," said Phil Alexander, who created the company after spending more than an hour calling his child's soccer teammates.
Here's how CallingPost works: A caller inputs a list of numbers and a voice message either by phone or through a computer microphone. The CallingPost computer then calls the numbers and delivers the message.
The company started out in 1995 as Coaches Board, then became Virtual Volunteer, a free service for civic groups and sports teams. Mr. Alexander kept the system free by recruiting corporate sponsors who placed five-second advertisements in the messages.
As the company grew, it became necessary to add new products to keep the service free.
"We had to put in a paid (system) because we were giving away so many free calls, we almost went out of business," Mr. Alexander said.
CallingPost now also offers commercial and emergency telephone service in the lower 48 states and says it has handled more than 65 million calls.
The commercial service lets companies and individuals send messages to clients about new products or specials, or to friends and family members wishing them a joyous holiday at a relatively low rate.
Mr. Alexander says the company is not a telemarketer because telemarketers make blanket sales calls and CallingPost calls only a company's existing clients with news and information.
More important to CallingPost is its entrance into emergency notification systems.
"If there's a chemical spill and they needed to notify a neighborhood, they could look at a map, pick an area, and the system will call all the numbers in that area," Mr. Alexander said.
The emergency system, known as Message 911, is in use by Columbia and Richmond counties and Atlanta, Mr. Alexander said. The system also is being incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security's warning system.
Mr. Alexander began work on the project in 2001, before the Sept. 11 attacks, but the system was not implemented until later that year.
The free volunteer message service is really the goal of the company, Mr. Alexander said, adding he expects the company's call volume to quadruple in the coming years.
"I'd like to keep the price down on the volunteer side to make it more available to volunteer organizations," he said.
CALLINGPOST COMMUNICATIONS INC.
LOCATION: 531 Blackburn Drive, Martinez
CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Phil Alexander, president
OWNERSHIP: Privately held company; Mr. Alexander and undisclosed partners have majority ownership
2003 SALES: Undisclosed
HISTORY: Mr. Alexander, a former Plant Vogtle employee, founded the company in his garage in 1995 as a free message delivery for volunteer and community organizations and sports teams. The company changed its name to CallingPost in 2001 and expanded its offerings to businesses and individuals wishing to send phone messages to multiple people. It also launched the Message 911 system for delivering emergency information.
Reach James Gallagher at (706) 823-3227 or
--From the Wednesday, January 21, 2004 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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