A warning system that eventually could be used to phone homes and businesses to warn of approaching severe weather is ready for use in some north Alabama schools.
Under a program unveiled April 18, officials at schools in a storm’s path will be paged automatically with a warning.
“It will be a whole new way of disseminating warnings to people in harm’s way,” said Bob Baron, president of Huntsville-based Baron Services Inc.
Baron has donated computer systems to nine emergency management and public safety organizations in north Alabama and south-central Tennessee. The computers are being connected to the company’s Site-specific Alerting for Threats (or SAF-T-Net) system.
The emergency management and public safety officials can use the computer’s storm-tracking information to send spotters to confirm that the storm is a tornado or other severe weather, Baron said. Agencies in the region can share storm reports through the SAF-T-Net.
Baron and Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, announced the pilot program at the Morgan County Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Decatur.
Baron said that when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning or other severe weather alert, SAF-T-Net will determine the most dangerous area of the storm. Another technology developed by Baron will track the storm and show its predicted path.
During an April 3 tornado warning, Morgan County Emergency Management Agency director Eddie Hicks decided not to activate the county’s only sirens, located in the northwest portion of the county, after the computer showed the storm’s path was across the northeastern part of the county.
He was able to reroute storm spotters into the path of that storm, he said. “When we sound the sirens, we really want it to be a legitimate warning,” Hicks said.
As more sirens are added in the county, Hicks said, EMA officials will be able to activate the ones needed.
SAF-T-Net also can communicate with cellular phones, computers, and home phones, company officials said. That technology eventually could be used to automatically call thousands of residents and businesses in a severe storm’s path with specially coded messages, company officials said.
Baron Services Inc.