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Warning: county puts citizens’ safety first

My Opinion
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer

The Harrison County Council made a good call renewing the emergency alert mass notification system last month, ensuring the opportunity for all to receive weather alerts.
The main attraction of the system is it is zip-code specific so users will not be bombarded with watches and warnings from other counties or even other parts of the county that will not affect their area. It also is unique in that it allows the users to choose which weather alerts they want to receive.
The price tag for the system is steep, at $12,000, but, hopefully, in future years the cost can be split among potential large users like schools and businesses such as Harrison County Hospital.
Or, as was the case in the initial year of use, a grant could be secured to fund the program.
So far, 11,000 users have signed up for the service, a strong total in a county of about 39,000 people.
The service is the most user-friendly and user-specific alert program out there, and residents can input multiple zip codes, such as home and the work place, from which to receive alerts.
Participants can chose the method they want to receive alerts: email, text, voice-recorded phone call or any combination of the three.
As of now, the service only offers weather alerts.
They are: Wind ‘ high wind; Flood ‘ flash flood, flood; Winter ‘ blizzard, freezing fog, freezing rain, heavy snow, ice storm, snow and blowing snow, winter storm, winter weather; Non-precipitation ‘ excessive heat, hard freeze; Fire ‘ fire weather; and Severe ‘ severe thunderstorm, tornado (tornado warnings are automatically sent; there’s no option on it).
Eventually, employee and student/family specific information will be relayed through this system, which may give businesses and schools a reason to pitch in on the cost. Who knows, it could be a savings over what they are currently paying to provide a similar service.
Before this system was in place, the only county-operated civil warning service was the sirens placed throughout the county, which, Greg Reas, the Emergency Management Agency director, said could, at best, only reach about 1/4 of the county’s residents.
While local television is inundated with weather alerts and doom-and-gloom forecasts days out from the actual event, it is still possible for dangerous weather events to pop up quickly. The only safe way to be warned in those cases is by your cell phone out on a lake, in the woods or even in your living room for those who don’t have a television on 24/7.
The only tornado I’ve ever seen with my own eyes was in the southern part of the county several years ago. I was hitting golf balls on the range at Chariot Run when dark clouds a good ways off in the distance began swirling and a tornado spun up. After it traveled some distance before going back up, the sirens kicked on at the South Central school campus. So, it is still possible for the weather folks to be tricked, and it’s best to always take as much precaution as possible.
The county commissioners are tasked with the safety of Harrison Countians in the event of inclement weather, such as declaring a state of emergency with strong winter storms. The emergency alert program falls in line with the charge to give residents every opportunity to be safe.
To sign up for the free program, visit harrisoncounty.in.gov and scroll to the bottom of the page to click on the link to sign up. For assistance, call 812-738-8949 or visit the EMA office at 245 Atwood St., Suite 217, Corydon.

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