Officials looking to expand use of Smart911, Rave alerts

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pike County is continuing to make a transition away from tornado sirens and officials are hoping to increase the number of people using Rave Alerts and Smart911.

During a budget presentation Monday, EMA and 911 officials told commissioners that server maintenance had been completely removed from their budget request; instead, the EMA will speak with stakeholders about what to do with the sirens and then approach the commission with the plan as a one-time project.

The commission chose last year to embrace Rave Alerts, a system that allows for the notification of residents about all kinds of weather advisories, road blockages and other happenings.

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A year in, with some of the tornado sirens no longer operational, officials are considering new ways to increase the number of people in the county that are using the alerts and Smart911, which allows users to give critical information to first responders in the event of an emergency.

“Social media is still going to be our biggest platform, as well as traditional media,” said Chris Dozier, 911 director. “But we’re also trying to do a post card mailer with some of the high points of Smart 911 and Rave Alerts and send that out to every resident in Pike County to hit some more people not on social media.”

So far, since the system debuted last year, Dozier said over 900 devices have been registered with the system.

“A family could have multiple devices registered or they could just have one,” Dozier said. “We can look at how many devices signed up for a type of alert.”

The agencies still have a long way to go either way to reach more than 30,000 residents in the county.

But tornado sirens are also limited in use, officials have said, and tornado warnings actually don’t rely on residents to voluntarily subscribe to alerts – the notification is sent to every cell phone within Pike County and landlines are also alerted. Even emails are sent out automatically.

The opt-in alerts are for notice of significant weather advisories, road blockages and other events, not immediate emergency situations such as tornadoes.

The sirens only warn of tornadoes in the area, are not designed to be heard indoors and reach only a one-mile radius.

Residents can sign up for Smart911 and Rave Alerts through either the Pike County EMA or Pike County 911 Facebook pages or at