Alcorn seeks grant for notification system

By Lena Mitchell | NEMS Daily Journal

CORINTH – Alcorn County officials will know in early 2012 if the county has been awarded a hazard mitigation grant to install a countywide emergency notification system.
The grant, made up of federal funds administered by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, is open-ended and can range from $15,000 to $75,000. The Alcorn County project would take $50,000-$60,000 to install hardware and software, 95 percent paid by the grant and 5 percent matched by the county, said Emergency Management Director Ricky Gibens.
“We had what is called a reverse 911 system before the May 2010 floods, but the cost was higher than the county could afford,” he said.
Corinth city government and schools have an emergency notification system in place called Blackboard Connect that sends voice or text telephone messages to anyone who registers.
If the grant is approved, the system Gibens will recommend for Alcorn County is FM radio-based.
“It’s the same system that MEMA has in place,” Gibens said. “I have one pager issued to me by the state and a wall-mounted receiver in our emergency operations center for emergency responders. We can send the same alerts out to the civilian population.”
Currently Pontotoc County has the FM-based system installed, and households have purchased the receivers through a local retailer for about $30 or less.
“There’s a model available for blind, illiterate and other special-needs persons,” Gibens said. “As part of the grant, the county would purchase a number of the receivers to distribute at no charge to underprivileged and elderly people in the county. We’d probably use the volunteer fire departments, churches or similar means to identify who the people are that qualify for those.”
Through the system county residents could be alerted to weather emergencies, derailments, floods, wildfires, law enforcement emergencies and even notices like road closures.
“Other systems are dependent on telephone lines, and you have to have your phone number registered,” Gibens said. “This system doesn’t depend on phone lines or computers but works off radio towers like local radio stations. Anyone within 50 miles of the receiver gets any alert that goes out.”
lena.mitchell@journalinc.com