By Lana Bellamy - CNHI News Service
Dec. 18, 2013 — Alerts for weather, Amber Alerts and national security alerts will automatically be sent to mobile phones utilizing Carter County cell towers by the start of the new year, Assistant Emergency Management Director Joanne Dunfee hopes.
Dunfee informed the council Tuesday night the new system she has worked for six months to launch is part of a Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Grayson, Carter County Emergency Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Program Management Office.
Dunfee said she still has to test the notification system and work on programming before official implementation, estimating the official kickoff date to be Jan. 1.
The notifications for local alerts will be sent directly by Dunfee via iPad through an online app the council has agree to pay around $200 annually to maintain. The alerts will be free for recipients.
Alerts will not only be available to Carter residents, but also anyone driving within the area whose cellphones feed off towers within the county. Users will be signaled with pop-up notes and specialized ringtones when alerts are sent out.
“We will still be able to communicate alerts using our existing social media and sirens, but this will just be another means of communication for our community,” Dunfee said.
For those afraid the new system will be used as a way of tracking cellphone users’ locations, Dunfee said this will not be the case and it will be used purely for alerts, with some having the customizable option of being turned off, but this does not include federally emitted notes.
Dunfee said the alerted area might overlap into parts of Boyd County in close proximity to Carter.
Emergency Management Director Roger Dunfee brought a different issue to light during the meeting, raising strong concerns for the city’s 911 dispatchers and their governing board headed by the Carter County Fiscal Court.
Grayson Mayor George Steele echoed similar discomfort in regards to the fact there is not a present member of the city council on the board, even though they pay for the dispatching services.
“That is the No. 1 issue, No. 1 problem with 911 today,” Steele said. “It was not intended when this was set up for the fiscal court to also be the 911 board. That’s why we’re having issues.”
The recent explosion of the Grayson Somerset Oil gas station on Main Street raised concern in the council members, who said 911 in Grayson was not alerted.
“We’re not talking about politics, we’re talking about people’s lives are at stake,” Roger Dunfee said.
However, Tommy Thompson of Emergency Management said there were texts and alerts sent out after the explosion on Dec. 5 and he has documentation to verify.
A sales rep for AirEvac helicopter medical services visited the council to discuss the possibility of teaming up with their services for city employees and their families.
The fiscal court signed up for the yearly membership for its employees last month.
After a short question-and-answer period, Steele asked for the representative to return to the next council meeting with his program manager to bring back detailed information to questions posed about the coverage area in Grayson and contractual agreements.
Air Methods, the helicopter service previously based at Kentucky Christian University, was forced to move to a base in Worthington for financial reasons, which prompted public criticism.
During the discussion period, council member Duane Suttles said he felt the coverage unnecessary since existing insurance provided by the city government may already pay for flights.
Steele agreed and said he would have no problem informing individual city government employees of the services, but does not feel obligated to enroll with either entity.
In the Alcohol Beverage Control report given by City Attorney Reid Glass, he informed the council that 11 retail stores have obtained state approval for malt beverage licenses and are actively selling beer.
Four other persons or entities, which cannot legally be identified at this time, are looking to obtain licenses to sell alcohol on their premises, two of which have been approved by Glass and are now sent to the state, and two which have been rejected.
Suttles recommended tweaking details of the city’s alcohol ordinance, such as turning off illuminated alcohol sales signage after business hours and on Sundays. Steele agreed they might return to the ordinance in the near future.
Chief of Police Kevin McDavid said there have been no reports of increased vehicular accidents or DUI citations since alcohol sales began.
LANA BELLAMY is a staff writer for the Ashland Daily Independent and can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2653.