911 considers emergency notification system

Published 10:22 am Thursday, February 26, 2015

Leaders in the local emergency services community are looking into the possibility of implementing a mass emergency notification system to alert residents in the event of severe weather or other events.

During the Carter County 911 Board meeting on Wednesday, Elizabethton Fire Department Chief Barry Carrier brought up the mass emergency notification system, saying he had been pushing for the system for a while.

“I think it will be beneficial to everyone,” Carrier said, adding the system could be used by any of the emergency services to get information out to large groups of residents.

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Mass emergency notification systems are designed to contact large group of individuals and relay important information to them regarding severe weather events such as floods or tornados and can even be used to relay information such as searches for missing children or police manhunts. Currently no such system exists in Carter County.

“If we have an imminent threat of a tornado we have no way of warning our citizens and I have a problem with that,” Carrier said. The fire department is equipped with an emergency siren, Carrier said, but not everyone is within range of the alarm.

An notification system such as the one Carrier describe is definitely a need in the community, Carter County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Smith said.

“I’ve looked at several systems and the capabilities are incredible, and the cost is not that bad considering what they are able to do,” Smith said, adding that a “ball park” figure for such a system would be between $12,000 and $15,000.

If all of the agencies pitch in on the cost, Carrier said it would not put too much of a burden on one agency trying to fund it. He suggested that the system be based at the 911 Communication Center, saying that was the most logical place.

The board decided to set up demonstrations on different systems to see what the county’s needs would be and get an estimate of cost.

Some funding may be available for the project in the 2015-16 budget cycle, Carrier said.

“I put enough in my budget to at least get it started. I felt like I needed to do that in this year’s budget to get us a starting point,” Carrier said. “It’s in there and it hasn’t been kicked out yet, but that is no guarantee. City Council hasn’t gone through the budget process yet.”

In other business, the board approved maintenance and service contracts for their backup power system. The backup system ensures that computers and communication systems remain online in the event of a power outage. Without the backup, there is a gap of time between the power goes off and the generator kicks on. Even though the gap is a brief period, it is enough to shut down the computers and communications equipment. Also approved was a maintenance agreement for the fire alarm and security system at the building as well as a contract with the accounting firm which handles the agency’s audits.