Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TOP STORY >> CodeRED: System will warn Cabot residents

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

CodeRED, a rapid emergency-communication system, is not fully operational in Cabot yet, but city residents can now go online to register to receive tornado warnings on home and cell phones.

Just go to the city Web site at www.cabotar.gov, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the CodeRED icon.

The city has purchased two alert systems from CodeRED. The general-announcements system could be used by the police department, for example, to call in specific employees like the SWAT team that is being formed. Or Cabot WaterWorks could use the system when waterlines break, so customers wouldn’t have to call in to find out when service would be restored.

The city would have to record those announcements and send them out to specific groups.

The storm-warning system will be controlled by the National Weather Service, which would call only those city residents who live in the path of a tornado and who have signed up for storm warnings on the city Web site or at city hall.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said last week during a teleconference with CodeRED that he intends to use the general-announcement system to call everyone in the city anytime the tornado sirens are sounded.

Tornadoes are the main reason the city is willing to pay $15,000 a year for the service, the mayor said. Cabot was almost destroyed by a tornado more than 30 years ago and it was hit twice last year.

Tornado sirens can be heard outside and sometimes inside, he said. But they often can’t be heard over vacuum cleaners, televisions and washing machines.

So as an extra precaution when the weather is threatening, “We’ll do an all-call” the mayor said.

“It won’t take the place of sirens but it will enhance them,” he said.

The CodeRED icon was added to the city Web site on Thursday.

Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson said Friday that much of the city is already covered by the system using data that was easily available to CodeRED, but more will be collected to ensure that everyone who lives inside the city limits is included.

The city will pay $10,000 for general messages and $5,000 for the weather alerts.

Robinson said he didn’t know when the system would be fully operational. However, the sign-up page for the weather alerts tells participants to allow two weeks for the city to verify that they are eligible for the service, which is available only to those who live inside the city limits.

The mayor said he was concerned that since residents will have no access to the data entered into the CodeRED system for Cabot, then they will have no way of knowing if their applications have been processed.

Jill Mason, the CodeRED sales representative, said if in doubt, sign up again. The system will not accept the same phone number twice. So if a number is rejected, it is already in the system.

There is no limit to the number of cell phones in a household that can be entered into the system. Anyone with an unlisted home number also is encouraged to sign up, the fire chief said.