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Funding sought for alert system

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Bartholomew County residents on the Everbridge emergency notification system would be able to receive more than 100 different types of location-specific severe weather alerts on cellphones or through the Internet, if funding for the feature is approved.

The Bartholomew County Commissioners are asking the County Council to approve paying for a Smart Weather Alerting System.

The system would allow those most likely to be affected by severe weather to receive detailed notices, such as specific start and stop times on warnings, and maps, Bartholomew County Emergency 911 Operations Director Ed Reuter said.

The system would send alerts through to Everbridge subscribers. Everbridge is a mass emergency notification system available free to Bartholomew County residents.

The biggest advantage of Smart Weather Alerting is its ability to alert residents of potential danger without delays, Reuter said.

Those delays are possible when a new storm cell develops without warning in the Bartholomew County region, or when local emergency personnel find themselves in unique circumstances where they are unable to issue immediate notifications themselves, Reuter said.

“This system is for those situations when every second counts,” Reuter said.

The county now has an employee designated to be on call to activate severe weather warnings or emergency warnings, Bartholomew County Emergency Preparedness Director Dennis Moats said.

The difference is that the Smart Weather Alerting system is automatic. When the warning is issued, it goes out to the Everbridge subscribers at the same time, Moats said.

If council members approve the funding, those signed up for Everbridge can either opt in or opt out for specific types of alerts that include lightning, thunderstorms, hail, ice, snow, extreme temperatures, high winds and floods, Reuter said.

However, tornado warnings will be automatically sent to all Everbridge subscribers, he added.

Although Everbridge is offered free to all Bartholomew County residents, the cost is paid through city and county taxes.

Smart Weather Alerting will add an additional $3,437 to the current annual cost of the Everbridge system, Reuter said.

The city of Columbus has agreed to pay slightly over $2,000 of those costs, while the county will pick up $1,409, Reuter said.

If approved, the total expense of providing the Everbridge system in Bartholomew County will rise to just more than $24,000 annually, Reuter said.

Reuter and Moats will ask the Bartholomew County Council to fund the county’s share at a council meeting June 10.

If approved, the system could be running with Everbridge in a few weeks, Moats said.

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