BY SUSAN SCHROCK firstname.lastname@example.org
Fort Worth and Arlington can already activate sirens to alert their communities about tornadoes and other emergencies, but both are working to get more detailed information into residents’ hands.
In October, Fort Worth is expected to become the first Tarrant County city to launch a hazard alert system designed to provide audio messages to blind residents and video messages in American Sign Language to deaf residents.
The city estimates that 50,000 residents could benefit from the free subscription service, which would send alerts to smartphones or computers.
“It will help us get a message to citizens who are not currently getting that warning,” said Juan Ortiz, the city’s emergency management coordinator.
Enrollment in the Accessible Hazard Alert System is expected to begin next month, he said.
Arlington is considering joining cities such as Fort Worth, Pantego, Kennedale and Roanoke that can send audio messages to home or business phones or text alerts to cellphones or e-mail accounts.
Emergency management officials are reviewing six systems and are expected to make a recommendation to the City Council by December.
The city began reviewing the notification systems after the April 3 tornado, which damaged more than 500 homes and businesses along Arlington’s western edge.
Two months earlier, several key thoroughfares were blocked after a Union Pacific train derailed downtown near City Hall.
“Be it man-made or a natural disaster, segments of the city could be impacted by something,” Fire Chief Don Crowson said. “The ability to provide a local impacted community with awareness of what is occurring may be a useful tool for us as we manage a response to a particular situation.”
No funding has been identified to buy a system, which could cost more than $100,000 a year, city officials said.
What are the
The system does the reverse of what a 911 call does by sending warnings to the public. It gives cities an additional way to warn residents to take shelter, especially when hail, high winds or loud televisions and radios could make the outdoor sirens harder to hear.
Since the mid-1990s, Fort Worth has been able to send audio messages to all land lines or just those in a specific area, Ortiz said.
Posted by: Jamie Schatten
Lead Reporter – DFW Alerts
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