Harrison Co. will repair sirens, resume emergency alert service after EF-1 tornado shakes community

Harrison Co. promises to fix sirens, resume emergency alert system

HARRISON COUNTY, IN (WAVE) - After a destructive tornado touched down in Harrison County last month and put several safety problems on display, emergency alert notifications will start again and tornado sirens will be repaired.

The council approved the funding for both at Monday night's meeting.

The emergency alert notification system, EverBridge, was defunded just 10 days before the tornado hit on July 20.

The program had been used by the county since 2016. But in the beginning of July, county officials found it wasn't effective.

The program had been used by the county since 2016. But in the beginning of July, county officials found it wasn't effective.

"We didn't feel like it was being utilized fully or appropriately," Chairman of the County Council, Gary Davis, said.

While a quarter of the county's population was enrolled in the program, records show alerts were often only going out to a few hundred people.

The majority of subscribers were added by EverBridge, who found the contact numbers through the phone book.

Of the 11,275 people enrolled, 8,138 came from the white pages and 1,242 phone numbers came from the yellow pages.

Sheriff Rod Seelye said only about 1,000 people actually enrolled themselves in the program.

At that time, EMA was managing the notifications. Moving forward, the Harrison County Sheriff's Department will be in charge.

Lt. Nick Smith with the Sheriff's Department said they aren't blaming EverBridge.

"I'm sure a way of marketing a business is to say 'we'll get this percentage of people enrolled in your system immediately,'" Smith said.

He thinks the system can work if managed the right way.

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"I think there's a lot of things that it can be used for and ways that it can be used that just weren't looked at, maybe just not thought of, so now we have more than one person looking at it -- we have a team of people," Smith said.

Previously, the notifications only covered weather. The Sheriff's Department plans to involve as many local government agencies as they can. Subscribers will be able to choose if they'd like to receive a variety of notifications including school closures, roadway hazards and messages from law enforcement agencies.

The Sheriff's Department also plans to be more proactive when it comes to informing people how to enroll.

Residents can sign up right away, but the Sheriff's Department said it will take a few weeks to finish their overhaul of the program.

EverBridge will cost $12,000 and will need to be approved yearly. To restart services, the county will have to pay the company an additional $1,500.

Repairs to sirens in Elizabeth and New Middletown will cost $32,000. Repairs should be complete in around eight weeks.

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