In the aftermath of the July 2010 flash flood, Elizabeth Powell, 801 Vermont St., was one of many residents impacted by the rapidly-rising brown water who complained about a lack of notification that an emergency existed.
“I wouldn’t have lost everything I did down here and at my husband’s business if they just had a whistle or something to warn somebody what’s going on,” she said.
That “something” could be coming in the not-too-distant future. On Tuesday night, the Hannibal City Council threw its support behind securing an alert system which would utilize residents’ telephones to advise them of emergency situations.
“We have weather radios, sirens, radios and TVs. This is another warning system. All I can do is continue to try to find ways to improve getting the message out to people,” said John Hark, the emergency management director for Hannibal and Marion County.
Hark and Mike Hall, director of Marion County 911, began discussing securing such a system over a year ago.
“We’ve been looking at different systems for 18 months, since the flash flood we had in ‘10,” said Hark. “It’s time to move forward.”
Hark has already taken the proposal before the Marion County Commission and the Palmyra City Council. Both entities have given it their support.
Having now received the Hannibal City Council’s backing, bids will be sought. It is estimated that such a system will cost between $13,000 and $14,000. The cost will be split between Hannibal, Palmyra and Marion County.
The alert system being sought would have the capability of calling every land-line telephone number contained in Marion County 911’s data base. While the system could be utilized to issue a weather warning to everyone in the county, Hark also envisions the system being used to contact a specific group of residents.
“If we have a walkaway, a missing child, an Amber Alert, a boil order, we can isolate a particular area and notify those people,” said Hark.
People who rely solely on a cell phone will have the option of signing up for emergency notifications. It is not yet known if sign-ups will be done exclusively online, or if locations will be set up throughout the county where people can sign up their cell number in person, or if a method will be created where people can register either way.
Hark hopes that at least a portion of the warning system can be operational within a few months.
“I hope we have at least the land-line portion of the program up and running by the first of April as we start into severe weather season,” he said.
For Powell, the new alert system can’t become operational soon enough.
“We need the warning ... bad,” she said. “I’m right behind them if they want to do it.”
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