Columbia County is preparing a telephone system to warn residents and businesses of dangerous situations in their neighborhoods.
Pam Tucker, the director of the county's Emergency Services Division, said the new program, called Message 911, is a telephone emergency notification system.
A situation which could be dangerous to an area or neighborhood would activate the system, Tucker said.
"We can go to a map and pull out the area that is in danger ... and tell people to shelter in place," she said. "I will say who, what, when, where and why, and I'll do it briefly. There won't be any question in their mind about what they need to do."
She said the Message 911 system can dial between 500 and 3,000 phone numbers each minute.
"This is a way we can warn everybody in the county," Tucker said.
She noted, however, that anyone with an unlisted phone number will have to give her office permission to place their number in the program.
Anyone with an unlisted phone number may call her office at 868-3303 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She said the program will be tested in May when the county joins with Harlem and Grovetown for a practice alert. The alert will assume a problem at the wastewater treatment plant in Harlem, and everyone within 0.7 mile of the plant will be notified of the disaster alert.
Tucker said people in the alert zone will receive a telephone call with her recorded voice telling them of the problem and what action to take to minimize the danger.
She said the National Weather Service will cooperate by activating the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather alert system. Area news media will also be asked to participate, she said.
"This is really the first time we've had Grovetown and Harlem and Columbia County all involved in one exercise," Tucker said. "So what this also does is help all those emergency responders in those three (governmental entities) come together for training and get to know each other. The first time you meet should not be at the scene of an accident."
Tucker said the county did not buy any hardware for the system but bought a license which permits the use of the Message 911 system.
The county paid $15,000 for the first-year license. She said the cost will be $10,000 for succeeding years.
She said the county also will pre-program telephone numbers for known hazards, such as a failure of the Clarks Hill Dam and for areas near other potentially hazardous sites.
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