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Howard Co. launches mass alert system to prepare residents for emergencies

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KOKOMO, Ind. – Four months after two tornadoes destroyed homes and businesses in Kokomo, city and county leaders launched a new mass notification system.

Howard County residents were allowed to sign up to receive alerts starting on March 1. Since then, close to 1,300 people have signed up for the program. The program is operated by Everbridge.

According to Nick Capozzoli, the communications director for Kokomo-Howard Co. 911, Everbridge is the company that issued mass notifications during the Boston Marathon bombing and Hurricane Sandy.

“We felt like we wanted to have a system that could tailor to the citizens,” Capozzoli said.

People who sign up to receive alerts during an emergency will be able to decide how many alerts they receive, what kind of alerts and where those alerts will go. For example, a person can receive an alert on their cell phone or a text or an email. While Hoosiers can pick the type of alerts they receive, Capozzoli said everyone who signs up for the program will receive tornado warnings.

“We had the tornado back in November and it drove home the fact that we’re trying to get citizens notified for those events as quickly as possible,” Capozzoli said

Hoosiers can sign up for the mass notification system by going to www.howardcosheriff.com. They need to look for the icon on the top left corner that reads “citizen alert notification sign up.”

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said he supports the new mass notification system. On Nov. 17, two tornadoes destroyed many homes in the area.

There aren’t any tornado sirens in the county that are operated by city or county officials. There are about 10 tornado sirens operated by organizations that installed them outside their businesses.

Mayor Goodnight said historically they have never had tornado sirens.

“Honestly with today’s technology, they’re an antiquated form of warning device,” Goodnight said.

Goodnight said a better investment by Hoosiers and warning system is a weather radio.

“There’s really not a good reason not to have one,” Goodnight said.

Kokomo started a program four years ago to sell weather radios. So far, they have sold about 7,000 of them. People can buy one for only $9 at city hall. Goodnight said those weather radios are typically $45.

Because it is Severe Weather Preparedness week, the Division of Homeland Security with the help of the National Weather Service and various other organizations designated Thursday, March 20, to run two statewide tornado drills. City and county leaders in Howard County said the drills are a good reminder that people need to be prepared for any type of emergency.

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