County getting alert system

Posted in: News
By Todd Brooks
Jul 3, 2013 - 8:43:15 AM

Rural areas of Stephens County will now have an alert system like Duncan and Marlow.
Monday morning, the Stephens County Commissioners approved an agreement with Blackboard, Inc. for a countywide system.
Duncan already has the Blackboard system – similar to Marlow’s Code Red® program.
“When the county’s communication center was all together, we had Code Red,” Gary Ball, director of Duncan and Stephens County Emergency Management said after the meeting. “We had notification for all the county residents. When we split dispatch, we no longer had it. This will notify all landlines outside the city limits.
“We will have communications for everyone except Velma and Comanche. Of course, Duncan and Marlow already have theirs and won’t be included. We will have people who will not want to be woken up at two in the morning, but they can call and have their number removed if they don’t want it.”
One difference between Code Red and Blackboard is no signup is involved. When activated all landlines will be called. Rural cell phone users can be added by calling emergency management.
Another difference is Code Red has limited data usage, but the county will have unlimited data usage.
For severe weather, NOAA will send out the alert messages, but for alerts such as evacuations, emergency management will be in charge of getting the message out.
“If county commissioners close a road, then we can let people in that area know,” Ball said.
The cost is just over $7,000 per year and is split between emergency management, the sheriff’s office, and the county.
The system is expected to go online sometime this week when the contract is signed.
Ball said the county also recently purchased a new 500-kilowatt generator for the fairground’s expo building using a $40,000 grant. The county already has a generator at the newest building and has several more on trailers.
The county’s safe room program is winding down, Ball said. 170 safe rooms have been built using $500,000 in federal grant money. 30 projects remain, and funding has been used up. Ball said more requests would be accepted.