Soon, when there is a tornado warning or some other type of emergency, Scott County residents will be getting notified on their cell phones, landlines and social media platforms.
Scott County Fiscal Court gave the go-ahead for Georgetown/Scott County Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Hennigan to bring a contract with RAVE Mobile Safety to a special council meeting at the fiscal court’s next workshop on Sept. 6.
The RAVE system uses the current 9-1-1 database, which allows it to send alerts via email, text and social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) and lets people opt in on what alerts they want.
“I wanted a phone app that was floating, so that if someone was traveling into Scott County, they would be able to get the alert of something that could affect them traveling through,” Hennigan said. “I also wanted unlimited minutes and text. If we have to do a tornado warning one day, and another in a week, I don’t want to be worried about minutes or number of texts.
“Now when the siren goes off, I see people walking outside looking at their phone. I want to eliminate that step.”
At first he was looking at a phone app system, but other counties said it was not effective.
“(Georgetown College) suggested looking at the RAVE system they have used for numerous years and have had no problems,” he said. “I reached out to counties similar to us, and they all use the RAVE system or are going to it.”
The system also alerts people with landlines who will get voice phone calls when the system is activated.
The RAVE system is tied into the National Weather Service, so people in the path of a tracking polygon will receive the alerts, as opposed to the whole county, he said.
“It doesn’t take the decision off my plate, but it gives me more tools to get in front of it,” Hennigan said.
Magistrate Chad Wallace asked to clarify if only the people in the polygon area get the alert.
“It can go both ways. If I choose to activate it, then I’m going to hit every phone in Scott County. I’m not going to worry about who is or isn’t in the path,” Hennigan said. “They are going to activate by the polygon. Once that is executed, I have the option of blanketing the whole county or just use their track. We will also activate the warning sirens.”
The alert system is a really exciting development, County Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington said.
“I think it can really impact safety across the county and keep our citizens aware of situations that when time matters could save lives,” he said. “We are coming a long way from the tornado siren. I don’t know what percentage of Americans have a cell phone, but I know it is pretty high. This is a chance for our EMA service when there is a situation that involves the safety of our community, they can activate this and communicate with the citizens.”
Magistrate Alvin Lyons said he didn’t want the system used so much it becomes noise and not effective, and Hennigan agreed.
Residents can pick which alerts and how they want to receive the alerts. There will be a social media campaign, including billboards, to urge people to sign up for the alert system.
For example, people can opt out of school cancellations if they don’t have kids in the schools. Another example he cited was accidents, which could be geofenced to a specific area, or if a road was going to be shut down for several hours, then they would do a county alert.
“We don’t have any intention of sending that many, but I have had several groups ask if they could opt in and use the system,” Hennigan said. “Things like boil water advisory, traffic rerouting or a missing child.”
The county budget included $25,000 for the system, but this costs about $17,000. The cost is based on the population of the county and not the number of people opting in. Hennigan wants to include Toyota employees so that if a road is shut down they can use a different route.
The fiscal court also approved hiring temporary appointments in various agencies. Jailer Derran Broyles was requesting two additional full-time staff members. He said that documentation he and others has found that in the last eight years, the jail has not increased staffing while at the same time the workload and responsibilities in an “already difficult work environment” has increased.
“I honestly feel like we can add four full-time spots, one for each squad we have, two day and two nights. But I think we can add two this year and I can ask for two next year. I think we can add these positions and do it in the parameters of the budget.”
There is increasing number of inmates and triages over the last 10 years, he said.
“We have an elevated population level compared to years past. The bookings, releases and triages all requires time of the staff,” Broyles said. “We have increased high watches and high risk inmates we are watching.”
Magistrate Bill Burke asked if the current staffing levels was set when the jail population was smaller. In 2012, they were housing 88 inmates, and as the population has increased, the staffing levels have not kept up.
Lyons said if the jail gets to hire two more people, Broyles needs to monitor the budget and decrease the amount of overtime.
“If we do approve this, you have to significantly reduce overtime to stay within budget,” Lyons said, and Broyles agreed. The magistrates approved the positions, and also approved increasing the pay of the maintenance person on staff. The maintenance employee is part time with no benefits, and Broyles said he does a great job and wanted to increase his pay $1 an hour. Broyles said he saves the jail “untold thousands of dollars,” and Burke said when it comes time to maybe make it a full-time position, the jail will need to show exactly where those savings were. That motion passed unanimously.
Emergency Medical Services is making a temporary appointment to fill in for a staff member out. There currently is a person filling in as a supervisor, and the court approved giving the person filling in a small increase in pay while they are performing those duties.
Human Resources Director Jeff Mudrack said he will be drafting a policy that covers situations as this so he does not have to ask the court’s permission every time.
“When a supervisor quits or something, it would be nice to be able to appoint someone to that spot until it is filled permanently,” Mudrack said.
Covington believes approving the temporary pay bump for someone performing those duties is the right thing to do.
“I think we need to take care of our employees. And the person doing the expanded role, we should recognize that and compensate them accordingly,” he said. The motion passed unanimously.
The court also approved promoting Nathan Mullikin to assistant director of animal control.
The library tax rate was also set at .056 per $100 of real property and .0576 per $100 for personal property.
Steve McClain can be reached at email@example.com.