Alderman wants text alerts to be topic of new year work session

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2010

While merely a whisper at this point, emergency text alertscould have the residents of Lincoln County adding the city ofBrookhaven to their cellular phones’ contact list.

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips notified fellow city officials tobe on the lookout for a work session after the first of the year todiscuss the possibility of using the popular messaging form ofcommunication to notify county members of possible dangers.

“I wanted to put that information out there,” said Phillips. “Ithink this would be received well in our community with the largenumber of people using cell phones and having the ability totext.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Phillips said the idea formulated after a couple of local residentsmentioned the availability of the service and the lack of operatingsirens during a previous weather emergency.

The civil defense department has been actively seeking a civildefense grant of $250,000 to install weather sirens, but Phillipsthinks the texting service would be a great addition or a cheaperalternative to the weather alarms.

“I think it would cost a fraction of the price of the sirensystems, especially throughout the whole county,” said Phillips.”There’s no telling what that would cost.”

While a text notification would be limited to the number ofvolunteer subscribers, the necessity of a cell phone and a fewother variables, the service could potentially reach more people inthe region than within an earshot away from a siren.

“Sirens are only going to cover a small area,” said Phillips.”Texting can cover the whole county.”

If a text message notification system were to be installed, itcould allow officials to send more than just weather alerts; itcould enable warnings pertaining to any number of emergencysituations.

“We’d probably have to limit the use of it to threats and trueemergencies,” said Phillips. “We would have to define what type ofmessages to put out.”

The messaging service would call for a collaborative effort betweencity and county officials, as the alerts would operate through thecivil defense department.

“We’re in the very early stages of this,” said Phillips. “We’ll betalking to the county and civil defense people to see what they’refeelings are on this.”

To much success, the tech-savvy notifications have been in place atCopiah-Lincoln Community College for the past two years.

“We strictly use it for emergency situations,” said Natalie Davis,director of Co-Lin public information. “It’s worked out reallywell, we haven’t had any problems with it at all.”

Officials at Co-Lin have used their messaging system, Wolf Alert,to notify students about all types of dangerous weather conditions,important alerts and even a bank robber on the loose.

“You just don’t know these days,” said Davis. “You have to planahead.”

Davis mentioned the messages the school sends out can be customizedto various situations, segmented to certain campuses or recipientsand received at a moments notice.

“The time between the time I send it and the time received is lessthan two minutes,” said Davis. “Very seldom does it take for acouple minutes to go off.”

With the city’s inquires of a new alert system, few people would beleft out in the cold in urgent situations.

“Between TV, radio and this text system, you would cover a vastmajority of our population with emergency information,” saidPhillips.