published Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Whitfield County residents can now sign up for weather warnings

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DALTON, Ga. -- Whitfield County residents can soon sign up to receive automated phone calls alerting them to weather warnings in their area.

County commissioners approved $22,500 to buy a new emergency public notification system for the entire county during their meeting Monday night.

The CodeRed system will replace the county's outdated Reverse 911 system that was used to call residents about such things as missing children or mandatory evacuations, Emergency Management Agency Director Claude Craig and 911 Deputy Director Jeff Ownby told commissioners.

A system that only made emergency calls would cost $15,000 and an additional $7,500 would buy the weather warning system, Craig said.

"We recommend going with the weather warning, especially after this spring," Craig said, referencing the dozens of tornadoes that wreaked havoc in the tri-state area.

Residents can sign up to receive calls for tornado, thunderstorm and flash flood warnings or they can chose only one or two of the warnings.

When the National Weather Service issues a warning, all residents within the warning system who have signed up will receive a phone call with an automated message telling them about the warning.

Several years ago, the county had looked into placing warning sirens throughout the county but the cost was "to the moon and back," Craig told commissioners. This system was much less expensive and also ensured that residents would receive the warnings even if they were inside watching TV or asleep, circumstances where sirens are not always effective.

Out of 159 Georgia counties, 104 used the system, Craig said.

Craig assured commissioners that only people who voluntarily signed up for the service would receive calls after several commissioners expressed concern about unwanted phone calls in the middle of the night.

There is no cost for people who sign up and calls can be placed to a landline or cellphone. The service should be operational within weeks, Craig said.

County Commission Chairman Mike Babb asked what would happen if only 500 people signed up. Craig and Ownby said they could opt out of the contract after a year if they wished.

"If we can save one life it will be worth it," Commissioner Harold Brooker said before casting his vote for the funding.

Contact staff writer Mariann Martin at mmartin@timesfreepress.com or 706-980-5824.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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