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Alert notification system gets second life

Money is on the move to complete the Harrison County’s alert system.
The county council approved two measures Monday night to reinstate the county’s mass notification alert system and make necessary repairs to the weather sirens so the system works as intended.
Both measures were approved 6-0. Councilwoman Jennie Capelle was not at the meeting.
The first calls for $13,500 to put Everbridge back online. The mass notification system, which can be used to send out a variety of messages, such as severe weather, road closures and other emergencies, to subscribers, was shut down by the council last month after it voted not to fund the system for another year.
Now, the alert system will be managed by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., where leaders there are learning what all the system can do and how many subscribers are on it.
Detective Lt. Nick Smith said the alert system, as of Monday afternoon, had 11,325 subscribers. He added of those, about 8,100 were numbers pulled from the White Pages and approximately 1,300 were taken from the Yellow Pages. The remaining 2,000 or so were people who signed up on their own to receive alerts through the free service.
The Harrison County Board of Commissioners assigned the sheriff’s office to manage Everbridge with the hopes of getting more people signed up and using the alert service more frequently.
‘Right now, it had been used for emergency weather broadcast service only,’ Smith said. ‘The National Weather Service sends this stuff out. Some people have apps that already get it. So, it might be redundant if they choose to get this as well.’
Smith said the department is still looking into the system to make sure people who signed up are still registered for the service. He said his office will look to use Everbridge for road closures, school closings, missing people and other notifications.
A committee has been meeting weekly since Everbridge was shut down to develop a plan for marketing the system after making some additions to what alerts can be sent, and who will send them, as well as getting sites established where residents can receive assistance, if needed, to sign up for any, or all, forms of alerts (text, email or phone call to either a land line or cell phone).
The sheriff’s department also wants to run tests to see how long it takes for alerts to get to everyone, whether it be via text or a voice call.
The council has asked the department to also consider other similar services, if leaders believe it will do the job better than Everbridge.
Besides the $12,000 annual expense for Everbridge, the company requested a $1,500 fee for the county to sign back up on the program. The council also asked the sheriff’s office to see if that fee could be waived.
The council approved $32,000 to repair a weather siren and get a computer to regularly monitor if the county’s 27 sirens are working.
‘Lightning struck and took out a computer and monitor that lets you know if the system had activated,’ said Commissioner Charlie Crawford, who presented to the council why the money was needed to complete the repairs to the siren system.
Now that the council has approved the funding, it could still take as long as two months to have the siren alert system back up and running fully.
Also at the meeting, the council approved $146,949 to cover repairs to 22 bridges in the county.
The most expensive repair is Bridge No. 50, located along River Road. It needs two repairs, totaling more than $54,500, which will include full depth patching for bridge deck delamination and repairing or replacing severely deteriorated and ineffective joint seals.
All the work is expected to be finished by the end of 2018. Most of it will be done by C&R Construction, while the remaining projects are assigned to FCI.
The request comes at the same time as the county’s compliance check, which is done every two years.
Harrison County maintains 77 bridges, and inspectors from United Consulting will spend the month under, near and on those structures. The county highway department’s bridge crew will tag along to learn how to better identify and troubleshoot bridge areas for preservation and maintenance.