Emergency center getting siren ‘brain’

Published 6:00 am Friday, November 20, 2009

Copiah County continues to place an emphasis on storm-readiness,and Emergency Management Director Randle Drane said the latestaddition to the system is going to be another way to insure thatarea residents will be informed and safe in the case of a weatheremergency.

Drane said with extra money left in a grant recently acquiredthrough the state, Copiah County is installing an alert system thatalmost acts as a brain for the rest of the facets of thesystem.

With alert sirens at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Wessonand Georgetown, and one in the works at Copiah Academy in Gallman,Drane said the new “brain” communicates with the sirens in severalways.

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“What this allows us to do is to be able to talk to the newermodel sirens that are placed throughout the county,” he said. “Wecan talk to those and they talk back to the equipment that islocated in the (Emergency Operations Center).”

The setup allows communications with six kinds of modules, Dranesaid, with capability to upgrade to text messaging, various radiocommunications, and even to communicating with reader board signson the road signs.

“It will talk to those big traffic signs on the highway, like ifwe got one here to put on say, Interstate 55, it could make thatboard operate too,” Drane said. “This has a lot of good potentialfor here in the county. We’re working to try to make it a safer andbetter community.”

Drane said the system will also alert EOC if there is somethingwrong with one of the sirens so that malfunctions are caught beforeit’s too late.

“Right now we have the siren module, and we can upgrade to thenetwork messaging module where we can go in and send out alerts topeople who want to get text messages during bad weather,” hesaid.

The radio and reader board upgrades are not currently under way,but since the capability is there, it will be on the radar at somepoint, Drane said. Since Copiah became a National Weather ServiceStormReady County, there are always projects to reach for to notonly to keep the StormReady rating, but also to keep members of thecommunity safe and secure.

“This is just one part of keeping our StormReady county active,since we went StormReady last year, we’re always looking to upgradeand continuously improve our protection of the county,” Dranesaid.

The system cost about $3,000 up front, with no further paymentsto be made, which Drane said is a big contrast to similar softwarethat can cost up to $15,000 up front and $15,000 a month afterthat.

Drane said the county is able to do projects like this onethrough grant money, which he researches and applies for when hefinds compatible grants.

“I get lucky every once in a while and find grants and we’reable to do certain projects with it,” Drane said. “But I also do alot of requesting and getting turned down.”