By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
---- — Just hours after a line of strong storms that included two tornado touchdowns wrought havoc on southeastern Kokomo, the Howard County commissioners approved a contract for an early warning system.
The commissioners on Monday approved a contract with Everbridge Mass Notification to bring a notification system to Howard County.
The system will send messages to county residents through a variety of electronic devices, including landline telephones, cellular devices, email addresses and faxes.
The system will allow information to be sent to thousands of county residents at once and could include weather alerts, other emergency situations, road closures, school closings and delays and amber and silver alerts.
Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said the system could be operational as soon as January.
Rogers said the messages will be limited to public safety concerns.
Larry Murrell, Howard County attorney, said the county has yet to determine who will be able to send messages and what protocols will be used.
The system costs $25,000 the first year and $23,000 for the second and third years with an option for two additional years at a cost of $23,000 per year.
Local residents will have to register for the public safety messages and how they want to be contacted by Everbridge.
The system allows for unlimited messages.
Nick Cappozzoli, administrator of the county’s dispatch center, said the system lets local officials target certain geographic locations, depending on the nature of the emergency.
The Everbridge system is already used by eight Indiana counties with 13 more considering adoption.
The Everbridge system was used during the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15 to warn residents and inform people of what precautions they should take.
James Comerford, coordinator of the Emergency Management Agency in Monroe County, said the county contracted with Everbridge in April and the system will be operational by the end of the year.
Comerford said Monroe County has tested the system by sending notifications to public officials.
“We have been working on protocols and standard operating procedures,” he said. “We will use it for public safety messages.”
Some local cellular telephone users received tornado alerts on Sunday.
The National Weather Service in Indianapolis said Monday it issues warnings and some cellular providers send alerts to their customers in the affected areas.