OUR OPINION: Telephone alerts could provide more warning

By NEMS Daily Journal

Consideration by the Lee County Board of Supervisors of a countywide alert system that can be narrowly focused for people in the paths of storms would add another layer of protection for a growing population at the mercy of our region’ volatile weather.
Supervisors have discussed but have not voted on a system offered by a company named CodeRED, which uses links to the National Weather Service, which pinpoints the paths of dangerous storms.
If supervisors approve the system, sold 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.
A warning siren system addition would cost about $1 million, but that should not be rejected. The county maintains 26 sirens, and for people living in proximity they are helpful when heeded.
More than 1,000 CodeRED systems are installed and working nationwide, including metropolitan Louisville, Ky.
Some installations are calibrated to warn of wildfires and other hazards for particular areas, not just tornadic weather that’s frighteningly common in Northeast Mississippi.
The Lee County supervisors and many other governing boards in the Southeast began investigating improved early-warning systems after the deadly and powerful tornadoes that killed more than 300 people during late April and May.
A particular need exists to reach people in areas distant from sirens, usually clustered in or near population centers.
Lee County’s Board of Supervisors earlier made the right decision to enlarge its existing 26-siren system to 28 sirens, installing new ones in Mooreville and Saltillo, and those will increase the coverage for thousands of people. Siren upgrades will be applied in Baldwyn, Nettleton, Plantersville, Shannon and Verona.
The CodeRED system would activate as needed 24/7 in every place with a registered telephone user.
In the interim, we encourage every household and business to purchase and use a NOAA Weather Radio, available at most retail electronics businesses and some hardware stores. The radio continuously broadcasts the forecast for specific areas, and during severe weather episodes the radios are programmed to sound automatic warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flash floods and high straight-line winds. The emergency alert can be set to go off 24-hours a day without the regular forecast broadcast in active mode. Memphis, and Jackson are the NOAA/National Weather Service offices covering most of Mississippi.
Every county has a primary natural disaster threat – earthquakes, sunamis, floods, windstorms and/or other hazards. Nothing will stop the bad weather but effective technology could help people take cover or get out of the way.