During an emergency, alert and warning officials need to provide the public with critical, time-sensitive information to protect life and property. Elmore County serves the public through use of a robust, multi-layered, redundant alert and notification system consisting of multiple components:
- All-Hazards Outdoor Warning Siren System & Weather Message Polygon Warning System
- NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards (NWR)
- Emergency Alert System (EAS)
- National Weather Service (NWS) released Civil Emergency Messages (CEM)
- News Media (Getting Public Information Out During Local Emergencies and Disasters)
- SwiftReach™ Swift911™ Emergency Notification Service
- Elmore County EMA Website
- Really Simple Syndication (RSS) “Feeds”
- Key Word Regarding Alert & Notification Systems: Redundancy!
In addition to the above, the public may also choose from myriad free and at-cost commercial alert & notification applications for their personal devices in order to build further redundancy into their alert & notification systems. Elmore County EMA cannot and does not endorse the purchase and/or use any commercial service available to the public, at-cost or free of charge, but highly encourages the public to ensure they have multiple methods of receiving emergency alert and notification information.
More details on each of the above components:
All-Hazards Outdoor Warning Siren System & Weather Message Polygon Warning System:
Outdoor warning sirens are pre-event warning devices. Sirens are designed to alert citizens who are outdoors of an imminent hazard and prompt them to seek shelter and additional information on the nature of the threat, including timing, location, and severity. Sirens are tested on the first Wednesday of each month, weather permitting.
Although not required by law, they are important devices used to warn citizens of an imminent hazard. Most, but not all, of the populated areas in Elmore County are within the audible range of a siren—theoretically a radius of one mile, depending on factors such as distance from the horn, wind, hills, valleys, buildings, trees, other obstructions, and the ambient noise level around the listener. When sounded, sirens may not be an effective warning device for those persons in dwellings or automobiles.
The county-wide outdoor warning system currently consists of sixty-three (63) all-hazards warning sirens installed and operating throughout Elmore County. Each siren includes:
- AC power with battery back-up system (applies to 22 of 63 sirens)
- Radio-controlled activation
- Automatic polygon activation by computer directly from the NWS by satellite and/or internet feeds (provided by Weather Message software, monitored by EMA)
Through the use of a commercial polygon warning system (Weather Message) in Elmore County, sirens have been grouped geographically into seven (7) separate zones. The National Weather Service (NWS) is the sole authority for issuance of warning notifications. Once the NWS issues a tornado warning, all sirens within each zone located within the designated polygon warning area will be activated automatically. Sirens in zones located outside the designated polygon warning area will not automatically activate, nor should they be activated manually by any PSAP unless given explicit direction to do so by the Elmore County Emergency Management Agency or the Chief Official of the PSAP.
- Activation Conditions
Activation of the all-hazards outdoor warning sirens is automatic and/or authorized (for manual activation) under the following conditions:
- Issued by the National Weather Service
- Activation of sirens is automatic based on Elmore County’s utilization of a commercial polygon warning system (Weather Message)
- If a tornado is spotted and the PSAP deems it as a credible source
Civil Emergency Message (CEM)
- Requested by local authorities, issued by the National Weather Service. Elmore County EMA is the single local coordinating authority between local officials and the NWS
- Sirens (individual or by zone(s)) require manual activation
- PSAPs must not activate sirens covering warned areas included in the CEM without receiving prior consent from Elmore County EMA or the Chief Official of the PSAP
- Activation Duration
When activated, the tone should be sounded for 3-5 minutes, re-sounding every 10-15 minutes for the duration of the threat (warning period).
- All Clear
There will not be an all-clear signal from the outdoor warning sirens. People in or near the warned area should monitor reliable sources such as NOAA Weather Radio All- Hazards, local media, or EMA’s website at www.elmorecoema.com or .org to know when the hazard threat has dissipated.
NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards (NWR)
Known as The Voice of the National Weather Service (NWS), NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR), provides updated weather information continuously, 24 hours a day, 365-days a year. Watches, warnings, advisories, forecasts, current weather conditions, and climate data are broadcast in three to five minute cycles on NWR stations across the nation. To listen to NWR broadcasts, a special radio capable of receiving signals in the Very High Frequency (VHF) public service radio band is required. Weather radios may be purchased at most electronics stores and online. The NOAA Weather Radio transmitter located in Montgomery, Alabama, serviced by the NWS Birmingham, serves Elmore County. Weather radios with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) capability may be programmed with just Elmore County’s SAME Code: 001051, to reduce the number of alerts received by the weather radio. NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards is useful anytime, but it becomes more important during severe weather. During threatening weather, normal broadcasts are interrupted, and the focus is shifted to the local severe weather threat. Watches and Warnings are given the highest priority and are frequently updated.
Emergency Alert System (EAS)
NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a major part of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) that disseminates critical warning information rapidly through commercial broadcast outlets. In an emergency, each NWR station will transmit a warning alarm tone signal followed by increasing volume or producing a visual and/or audible alarm. Though not all weather band receivers have the capability, all weather radios can receive the emergency broadcasts.
National Weather Service (NWS) released Civil Emergency Messages (CEM)
A Civil Emergency Message (SAME CODE: CEM), which is transmitted by the National Weather Service at the request of local authorities, is a warning created by the NWS that’s meant to warn of an in-progress or imminent significant threat(s) to public safety and/or property. Examples of such threats include, but are not limited to, a hazardous materials release or a dam failure. Issuance of a CEM may generate the activation of the All-Hazards Outdoor Warning Siren System. Action steps for those hearing an outdoor warning siren are to seek sturdy shelter and additional information on the nature of the threat, including timing, location, and severity.
News Media (Getting Public Information Out During Local Emergencies and Disasters)
Elmore County EMA works with multiple partners regarding the dissemination of public information—both routine and crisis/disaster information. Fostering strong partnerships helps ensure the public is provided information needed during times of local emergencies and disasters in the most accurate and expeditious manner possible.
Public information becomes exceptionally critical during times of local emergencies and disasters. Generally speaking, Elmore County EMA is responsible for the following:
- Building strong media relations based on comprehensive preparation & planning
- Distinguishing between three levels of activity: day-to-day, local emergency, and disaster; Responding accordingly to each
- Planning effectively for media reaction during routine and emergency situations
- Preparing elected officials & emergency management speakers for news conferences and media interactions
- Monitoring current conditions, providing “ground truth” to the NWS regarding credible reported happenings during severe weather events, especially when under weather warnings such as tornado, severe thunderstorm, flash flooding, and flooding
- Working cooperatively as part of a Joint Information System, when activated
- Ensuring constitutionally protected rights are upheld; ensuring EMA’s relationship with the media is consistent with law, policy, and departmental procedures
Examples of public information released by the Elmore County EMA during times of local emergencies and disasters may include:
- Evacuation Orders, Shelter-In-Place Orders, Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Releases, Impending Dam Breach/Failure, Boil Water Notices, and Road Conditions/Travel Advisories/Resumption of Travel Announcements
- Disaster Assistance: Public Assistance (PA) and Individual Assistance (IA)
- Locations of Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs), Volunteer Reception Centers (VRCs), Points of Distribution (PODs)
- Activation of Safer Places (i.e., locations, duration)
- Requests for donated goods; termination of flow of donated goods
- Call for affiliated and unaffiliated volunteers
Elmore County EMA utilizes the following means to disseminate public information:
- EMA website
- Broadcast Media (TV, Radio)
- Print Media
- World Wide Web, social networking
A “success story” reflecting the development of such strong partnerships can be found in the Integrated Warning Team (IWT) – Central Alabama.
The Integrated Warning Team (IWT) of Central Alabama consists of local (county, city, university) emergency managers, broadcast meteorologists, and National Weather Service personnel. Each partner has a critical mission to fulfill in getting emergency public information out.
The IWT melded together in 2012, after the devastating tornados in Alabama in April 2011, by virtue of a joint interest in protecting citizens through the weather forecast and warning process. Members have attended IWT Workshops to discuss areas of improvement, local and agency-wide strategies, and ways to work better together to improve the future safety of Alabama citizens. During each workshop, participants developed better understandings of the missions, roles, and obstacles faced by IWT members in protecting Alabama citizens in the weather warning process.
The Elmore County EMA will continue working diligently with all our partners to ensure citizens are provided with the most accurate, timely and thorough public information possible, at all times.
SwiftReach™ Swift911™ Emergency Notification Service
The SWIFTREACH™ SWIFT911™ Emergency Notification Service was employed in early June 2013 as Elmore County’s newest incident-management resource. SWIFTREACH™ touts SWIFT911™ as a “powerful solution for emergency notification” allowing the user to contact thousands of individuals simultaneously, by sending voice, text/SMS and email messages, in a matter of minutes. SWIFTREACH™, “SWIFT911™ is an Emergency Notification Service that allows officials to rapidly and directly deliver specific actionable information to their community. County stakeholders receive a variety of information through SWIFT911™ such as emergency notifications, “heads-up” alerts, information regarding forthcoming emails, scheduled conference calls, planning meetings, etc., regarding critical/potentially critical situations only.
SWIFT911™ will not be used however, to make emergency notifications to Elmore County stakeholders or the public on severe weather watches & warnings. Heavy publicity already exists through a multitude of robust, redundant resources & applications. Residents may receive a variety of information such as hazardous materials releases, evacuation orders, Shelter-In-Place orders, boil water notices, dam failures, etc.
Elmore County EMA Website:
We’ve strived to build a website that connects the citizens of Elmore County with the most accurate, timely, and useful information available to help build a resilient Elmore County. The new website includes features such as: active incident alerts; road conditions; the Safer Places Program (with real-time locational/activated sites map); user-friendly navigation; social media sharing; a “Just- In-Time” video training library; and emergency/suspicious activity reporting. The website also features numerous links and information on topics such as: current weather conditions; active Impassable Travel Advisory/Resumption of Travel announcements; local training and outreach opportunities; individual, family, and business emergency preparedness tools; and programs offered through the EMA, such as the Yellow Dot Program and other volunteer opportunities.
As is, the new website is informative and robust. However, we urge citizens to check back frequently for updates and additions as the site continues to grow with additional features and information. Your feedback and comments are welcome by calling the Elmore County EMA Office at 334-567-6451.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) “Feeds”
“EMA Alerts” is a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) “feed” that Elmore County EMA has set up through this website to provide registered users with alerts and/or notifications. Click on the “RSS Feed Icon” below to subscribe to this free service. The RSS “feed” notifies the user that an alert and/or notification has been posted to the EMA website and directs the user to the website for the details. The alerts are sent through the user’s browser.
Key Word Regarding Alert & Notification Systems: Redundancy!
No alert and notification system that includes components such as: the outdoor warning siren system, NOAA Weather Radios All Hazards (NWR), media, dialing/automated notification systems, etc., is 100% fail safe or 100% effective 100% of the time. No one system should ever be exclusively relied upon to receive emergency alerts and notifications. Having multiple means of receiving critical emergency information–known as building redundancy into your alert and notification system–helps ensure the alerts and notifications are received, despite factors like power outages, dead batteries, time of day, and adverse weather conditions. It is up to the individual to be aware of his/her surroundings, especially during severe weather seasons, and to be prepared to take proper and appropriate protective measures.