New system would not add cost to county taxpayers

Marion County could soon feature an additional phone-based alert system. Earlier this week the Marion County Commission authorized John Hark, the county's emergency management director, to research the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

IPAWS, which is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), unites the Emergency Alert System, National Warning System, Wireless Emergency Alerts and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio under a single informational platform.

IPAWS would not replace the county's existing phone-alert system — Code RED — which went into service in July, 2012. With Code RED, the county would be able to add the federal alert system at no additional cost, Hark said. When Code RED was launched, every "landline" phone number in Marion County was entered into the system. People with cell phones, however, had to sign up to receive the service. IPAWS would reach a larger number of cell phone users.

"It is something that we can use to help and warn our people that are not signed up yet for Code RED, but also the traveling public coming through or to our community via the cell phone," Hark said.

Hark said the new system would be able to notify Hannibal visitors of severe weather warnings who may otherwise be unaware.

"Anybody from out-of-state who is traveling through our community, if a tornado warning goes out for this area, their cell phone will pick it up via IPAWS," Hark said.

Lyndon Bode, Marion County's presiding commissioner, said the commission is supportive of adding IPAWS.

"John is going to look into it a little more," Bode said. "We are in agreement, especially since it looks like there will be no additional cost, that tying into that system would be good,since everybody is changing to cell phones."