Lee County may go to phone-based weather alert

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The ring of a telephone could warn residents of potential danger if Lee County supervisors approve a weather-alert system currently under review.
The technology, called CodeRED, uses National Weather Service alerts to pinpoint the path of dangerous storms, then calls residents in that geographic area to alert them. Only those within the danger zone receive calls.
If supervisors approve the system, provided under contract by Sarasota, Fla.-based Emergency Communications Network, it would cost roughly $25,000 annually for weather alerts. Other emergency notifications would cost more. That’s versus the estimated $1 million to provide adequate siren coverage of the county’s 453 square miles.
Lee County currently has 26 sirens scattered throughout its mostly rural territory. Fifteen of the high-pitched warning devices are located in Tupelo alone.
Most sirens have a roughly two-square-mile sound radius.
“Geographically, it’s just so expensive,” said board President Joe McKinney, who favors the plan. “Under FEMA guidelines, we’re pretty much in competition with every area in the state for tornado sirens and storm shelters.”
Lee County recently got joint funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency for two new tornado sirens and upgrades for 10 others. But it needs more cash to expand its network.
Supervisors took the proposal under advisement last week and could soon vote on the plan. They had first heard about it several months ago.
McKinney said he expects it to pass.
CodeRED can call home phones, cell phones, office phones and also send text messages. It has been implemented in areas across the country, said a company spokeswoman Monday.
“No system is perfect,” said Sean Thompson, county administrator. “There will be somebody who says, ‘I wish they wouldn’t have called me at 3 a.m.’ And there will be someone who will say, ‘I wish they could have called Aunt Suzy at 3 a.m., because she’d still be here today.'”

Click video to hear audio