ANDERSON – Since the 1950s most communities relied on the old air raid sirens to warn residents of threatening weather, but Madison County is in the process of adapting new technology.
Residents can sign up at the Madison County Emergency Management Agency website to receive messages on their cellular telephones, computers or home telephones of threatening weather conditions.
Tom Ecker, director of the Madison County EMA, said the county has been using a system developed by Amatra for several years to contact first responders.
“Local residents can sign up to be notified on all social media,” he said.
Ecker said there are advantages over sirens, which he described as 1950s technology.
“People want more information. This is a means of providing that information,” he said. “Many people tend to ignore the sirens, particularly if they are continually going off.”
Ecker said the Madison County system will go beyond weather alerts including when an evacuation has been ordered and the location of shelters. Alerts will also be issued for major road closures that will last for more than one year.
“We are not planning on issuing a message for every watch and advisory issued by the National Weather Service,” he said. “We’re talking about extremely dangerous situations.”
The public will not be notified of school closings because most area school systems already send messages to parents.
Ecker said the system should be operating by the end of April.
Depending on how many people sign up, he predicted the annual cost of the service for the unlimited messages at $25,000. If everyone in Madison County signs up for the message alerts, the cost to the county could be $133,000.
Ecker said Madison County will be taking bids for the service in 2015 to obtain the best price.
Howard County activated a message alert system by Everbridge on March 1. Kokomo has no city-owned sirens.