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MEMA Implements Severe Weather Smartphone Alert System

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 29 Aug 2013 06:00am | comments
MEMA Director Robert Latham discusses the new severe weather alert app. Photo by Jeffrey Hess/MPB News

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is introducing a new way to alert residents about incoming severe weather. The state will send cell phone alerts to people in the path of dangerous storms.

The alerts will trigger a message on each smart phone in the area of severe weather, such as a tornado or hurricane, to warn people that they could face dangerous conditions.

 MEMA director Robert Latham says the alerts will increase personal preparedness which he considers a weak point in the state's storm response structure.

 "The part of the puzzle that is not as prepared as they ought to be are the individual citizens. Their families their friends, their neighbors. I talk all the time about trying to build a new culture of preparedness and that starts with individual preparedness and their families. And if they are prepared, we can save lives," Latham said.

 The alerts, which will happen automatically unless a person opts out, have been around for a year but this is the first time all the major cell carriers in Mississippi have agreed to deliver the emergency notices.

 The alerts will go out to every cell phone connected to specific towers in the threatened area and regardless of where their phone originates says National weather service Meteorologist Steve Wilkerson.

 "Our concern is who is getting that warning. There are way it goes out: TV, radio, sirens and various other ways. And this adds another layer on top of that. So it is a way to not only reach the traditional folks that are watching TV or maybe hear a siren but anybody that has that phone with them," Wilkerson said.

 MEMA has also launched an information app for smart phones that includes emergency updates and preparedness check lists.

 Governor Phil Bryant says he fully supports the inclusion of the new technology.

 "This is something that is new but we think will be amazingly effective. The wireless emergency alert along with the new app is something that is moving new technology directly to assist our citizens in times of emergency," Bryant said,

 Nationally more 56% of all American adults have a smart phone.

 It is not clear what percentage of Mississippians have smart phones, but MEMA believes they a common enough to be effective.



MEMA Director Robert Latham discusses the new severe weather alert app. Photo by Jeffrey Hess/MPB News



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