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Dale County getting enhanced emergency alert system

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Dale County Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Willie Worsham

Dale County Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Willie Worsham updates the Dale County Commission on the new county emergency alert system.

OZARK—A new emergency alert notification system in Dale County is set to go live Oct. 1.

The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) will replace the Everbridge Mass Emergency System that the county has used since June 2017.

Not only is the new system more “public friendly,” it is more cost effective than its predecessor, Dale County Emergency Management Agency Director Willie Worsham told Dale County Commissioners at the meeting last week.

Worsham, appointed Dale County EMA in March 2021, served most recently as the Emergency Manager at Fort Rucker from 2006 until 2020. Before that Worsham served at Fort Rucker as a Department of the Air Force weather forecaster from June 2006 until being named EMA at Fort Rucker.

The 20-year Air Force veteran has been working to update the EMA office, website and services since he came on board.

IPAWS is a system provided by FEMA for agencies to use to inform the public of emergencies to include dangerous weather and AMBER Alerts. The notifications go through cell and landline phones, weather radio, TV and internet services.

“A critical component of IPAWS is ensuring access to the entire public,” Worsham said. “The system has technologies to reach people in rural locations, those without access to newer electronics, non-English speakers and those who require text-to-Braille translators and sign language interpretation.”

Worsham said the previous alert system cost $11,500 annually. “IPAWS will cost the county $10,200 annually and comes with more options for sending messages,” he said.

Worsham said he compared the service and cost of systems offered by five separate companies and had discussions with others currently using IPAWS before making a recommendation to the commission.

Citizens currently signed up for Everbridge will be transitioned over to the new system when it goes online Oct. 1. Prior to that date, the EMA will provide sign-up information to the public, Worsham said, adding that the EMA website is accessible through the Dale County website.

“The Dale County EMA combines the local resources of Dale County and the municipalities of Ariton, Clayhatchee, Daleville, Grimes, Level Plains, Midland City, Napier Field, Newton, Ozark and Pinkard, along with state and federal resources to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the effects of natural or man-made disasters, technological accidents, national security threats and other disrupting incidents that may impact our areas,” Worsham said. “This new notification system, in short, is better and less expensive.”

In other business, the commission voted to cancel the regularly scheduled Aug. 23 meeting and reschedule to Aug. 30 in the Dale County Government Building. A work session begins at 10 a.m. followed immediately by a voting meeting. Both meetings are open to the public.

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