FEMA to bring emergency communication into the 21st century with new system

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

Durand, Wis. (WEAU) -- Some counties are sending out severe storm text alerts straight to your smart phone or inbox. Within the next year a similar system will be adopted nation-wide by FEMA.

For the past three years Pepin County has been utilizing the service called Nixle. People can got to nixle.com and create a confidential account that will send emergency messages to your phone, email, or both.

"Typically its going to be emergency messages for severe weather. We can also use it for amber alerts...if there's an emergency downtown or anywhere in the city that we need to get the information out such as a gas leak," says Lt. Blake McMahon of the Pepin County Sheriff’s department.

Here at dispatch is where the warnings are sent out to the couple hundred of people registered. They can adjust the location and amount of people who receive the message. "It’s a free thing when they register there is no cost to the recipient getting the messages...very easy to use and it's very effective."

A new system starts next year called the integrated public alert and warning system. It will expand the current emergency alert system.

"It was a very straight forward, very simple system. This system will allow communication to happen across many different platforms," explain Tod Pritchard who is the Wisconsin emergency preparedness coordinator.

IPAWS is going to make it even easier to get direct messages about severe weather straight to your phone whether you're here at the golf course or anywhere. And it won't matter what carrier you have or if you have a texting plan or not.

"It will be a completely free service and you don't have to sign up or anything. It'll just happen automatically." Tod Pritchard says phones purchased over the past few years wont have this technology but starting now as new phones get rolled out they will have this technology. The wont even have to be smart phones.

"I feel it would be very good especially this time of the year when everybody is out camping, boating, fishing. Severe weather can creep on your very fast, so at least they'd have some kind of a notification," says McMahon.

Several counties have something similar to Nixle. McMahon recommends contacting your local sheriff’s department to find out if you have a program for your county you can sign up for.

Below is a link to more information about IPAWS.

More Information on IPAWS

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  • by Anonymous Location: Eau Claire on May 5, 2012 at 08:44 AM
    It isn't a police state action, Argus. It is a voluntary notification system that you choose, if you want it. I'm already signed up for nixle and receive alerts for the city of Chippewa Falls, for example. I am eagerly waiting for Eau Claire to join. The nice thing about these programs are that, if you change your mind about which types of alerts you want to receive, you just go into your settings and make modifications. It doesn't cost our emergency government any more money than it does to send an email, and it is an instant notification. Since most of our population now have access to email and/or cell phones - I think this is a GREAT way to go!
  • by Joe on May 4, 2012 at 07:57 AM
    So this is going to be used for gas leaks and such? I can see national emergencies but if my phone automatically goes off for a gas leak or something and I don't want it to there will be severe push-back from the public I bet....
  • by Argus on May 2, 2012 at 07:34 PM
    The Police state snowballs.
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