By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
---- — For several years, the city of Kokomo has been criticized for not having warning sirens to alert residents of weather emergencies. Now, Howard County officials have started the process to alleviate that concern, possibly as soon as next spring.
The Howard County Commissioners on Monday approved funding for a mass notification system through Everbridge.
The Everbridge system will send messages to county residents through a variety of electronic devices, including landline telephones, cellular devices, email addresses or faxes. The system was used during the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15 to warn residents of the emergency and what precautions to take.
Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said the county has been considering a system for several years.
County officials looked at another system about five years ago, but there were concerns about the liability to the county and limits on the number of messages that could be sent.
“This will allow us to provide a timely notification to large segments of the population,” Rogers said. “The residents can select when to be notified.”
The messages could include weather alerts, other emergency situations, road closures, school closings and delays and amber and silver alerts.
Nick Cappozzoli, administrator of the county’s dispatch center, said the Everbridge system will allow thousands of residents to be notified at once.
The system is used already in eight Indiana counties, and 13 more are considering it, he said.
“Residents will determine how to be notified,” Cappozzoli said.
Data provided to the company will be from public information and residents will be required to self-register if they want messages sent to cellular telephones, an email address or fax machine.
Cappozzoli said the system allows county officials to notify only people in certain geographic locations, depending on the nature of the emergency.
Everbridge will have a separate website for Howard County residents to register with the company, he said.
The intent is to have the mass notification system in place by the spring severe weather period in Indiana.
Cost of the system is $25,000 the first year and $29,999 for the second and third year with an option for two additional years at a cost of $29,999.
The system allows for unlimited messages to be sent to county residents.
The system was reviewed by the Howard County Sheriff’s Department, Howard County Emergency Management and the city of Kokomo.
Commissioner Paul Wyman made the motion to approve funding for the system once the language of the contract is finalized between Everbridge and Howard County.
“The experts have looked at this,” he said. “There is no reason to wait any longer to protect the people of Howard County.”
Steve Key, attorney for the Hoosier State Press Association, believes because the list of contact information will be maintained by a private company, those records would not be available under Indiana Public Access laws.