(Guthrie Center) The Emergency Management Commissions of Guthrie and Adair Counties are embarking on a new emergency notification system in their quest to keep citizens safe. When used, residents will receive phone calls with details of emergency situations in their communities.
Robert Kempf, Emergency Management Coordinator for both counties, has spent four years testing options and researching companies offering the service needed. Last year, the EM Commissions selected Global Connect of Mays Landing, NJ, and have been working hand-in-hand with the firm to “go live” with emergency notification in both counties. “The system is designed to get emergency messages to the public, quickly and effectively,” said Kempf. “It provides an opportunity to disseminate critical information if and when the need arises.
The system stores and uses the contact information according to street address. It will not recognize P. O. Boxes. A physical address must be provided.
The program included a database of phone numbers for all the communities in the two counties. However, there are missing numbers. People who do not have landlines and rely on cell phones are also not included at the current time.
A drive is underway to collect information for the database. Residents are urged to sign up online at: www.guthriecounty.org or www.adaircountyiowa.org . The form is available in the Emergency Management link. Paper forms are also available at city halls, libraries and in the Guthrie and Adair County Auditor Offices. The form asks for: name, 911 address, city, zip code, primary phone number, cell phone numbers and email addresses. It also offers the option of notification by the National Weather Service for severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. Kempf assures everyone that the information is private. “It will not be sold or provided to a third party,” stressed Kempf.
This is a targeted address system so that people will be only notified when emergencies arise in their area. It uses street addresses to integrate with the notification systems mapping capabilities. “For example, no one from northern Guthrie County will be called when the emergency is in southern Adair County,” explained Kempf. “It will only be used in cases of emergencies. We don’t want people to become complacent by over using it.”
The system has been tested twice so far this year when Fontanelle and Stuart experienced water main breaks and were placed under boil orders by the Department of Natural Resources. It functioned as intended, according to Kempf, but it is apparent there are gaps in the phone numbers of residents who want and need the notification.
“These two situations have been good tests for us,” said Kempf. “Now we really need to get the public involved and get them signed up.”
This has been an expensive venture for the EM Commissions. Sponsors were recruited but so far, only First National Bank of Fontanelle and Greenfield has pledged $500 per year for five years to help offset the costs. Additional sponsors are needed.
Kempf is available to speak to community organizations to explain the new system and answer questions about being a sponsor. He can be reached at 641-332-3030.
Kempf has worked hundreds of hours on the database and system. He recognizes there will be many more hours needed to add and check the newly acquired information. It will take an ongoing effort to keep the system updated as phone numbers and addresses change.
“It all comes down to doing the best job we can at keeping the public informed and safe in cases of an emergency,” concluded Kempf.
February 25, 2013