COVINGTON, Ga. - With hurricane season here and memories of the impact of Tropical Storm Irma on Newton County still fresh, there is a new tool available to citizens to help them prepare for and stay safe during severe inclement weather and other incidents.
CodeRED is a public alert warning system now available to Newton County residents. Emergency Management Agency Director Jody Nolan said technology has taken emergency notifications for the public to another level.
“As technology has increased, they’ve been able to go to whole new level in public alert warning,” he said.
Nolan said with last Wednesday’s activation of the service in Newton County, citizens who opt in to can receive notifications from the National Weather Service such as tornado warnings, flash flood warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings in a variety of ways including text messages, email alerts or home phone notifications. He said the warnings are received as they are issued.
“The warning through CodeRED will immediately be broadcast at the time the warning is issued by the National Weather Service,” he said, “The National Weather Service has an immediate tie-in to CodeRED so any of the warnings that are received in our geographical location will be sent out.”
Nolan said in addition to advising the public about potential weather emergencies, after training, public information officers for local governments and public safety agencies will be able to use the system to notify the public in their geographical areas about such things as missing children, missing elderly, law enforcement BOLOs (be-on-the-lookout notices) or boiled water advisories.
“Those public information officers in various departments along with the municipalities, all of the municipalities, will get authority, once they receive the training, to send out notifications in their geographical area,” he said.
Nolan said geographical areas can be narrowed to specific streets. And he said it’s important that people understand that they have to opt in to the service.
“You have to opt in to it in order to receive these alerts,” he said,” They’re not just going to automatically go out. And then you can select the type of alerts you want to receive. And you have to go down and make that selection because otherwise you’ll be signed up for everything.
“There’s even an ‘opt-in’ for a tsunami warning. It’s very unlikely that we’re going have one of those here, but it would only be if the warning was issued for our geographic area.”
Nolan said the CodeRED app is available for download for both Android and iPhones. He said if you don’t want to download the app, you can access CodeRED via a desktop computer and enter phone numbers you would like to receive alerts on.
Once you download the app, Nolan said if you have location services activated on your phone, you will receive activations for whichever geographic you are in.
“I know that Rockdale County uses CodeRED. So if you have the mobile app and you happen to be in Rockdale County, then you’ll receive warnings,” he said, “ Also, Morgan County uses CodeRED. You have to have your location turned on in your phone.”
Nolan said 84 of Georgia’s 159 counties participate in CodeRED.
“If you have your location turned on and you’re traveling through any of those counties, not only Georgia, but anywhere in the continental United States and Canada, you’ll receive alerts,” he said.
Nolan said CodeRED will only send out NWS alerts for warnings, not watches. He said Newton County can tailor its notifications as necessary.
“The big thing is we don’t want the citizens to become complacent and go ‘I don’t want to hear that,’” he said, “We want people to get comfortable with the warnings. We can issue the watches. If we feel that it’s a significant situation, we can go in there and send out a watch in the area. Or if we have localized flooding in the area the National Weather Service is not picking up on, then we can send out notifications in those areas.”
Nolan said notification decisions will be made by local leaders, including the county sheriff, police chiefs and fire chiefs. He said notifications will have to adhere to a strict set of guidelines.
Citizens can sign up for the service or download the app at no charge. The cost to the county is $17,000 annually, including the training fee. Fees for the service are funded by a $15,000 grant and $2,000 from EMA.
For questions about CodeRED, contact Newton County Emergency Management at 678-878-6484.You can download the app here.