NEBRASKA CITY – Otoe County has revamped its procedure for activation of its public emergency notification system to require verification by elected officials before an alert can be sent out.
Emergency Management Deputy Director Steve Cody said any county commissioner or city mayor is authorized to verify an emergency.
Cody: “Say we have a big anhydrous ammonia leak, something like that, where we have to send out an evacuation notice to the public to evacuate a certain area, the fire chief would then make that request, step through the process. It would go to the mayor or to the county board, as available, and then we would send out that notification.”
He said the procedure ensures that elected officials are informed about what is happening and helps avoid situations similar to a false missile alert in Hawaii.
An emergency alert test accidentally went out in January urging Hawaiians to take immediate cover due to a ballistic missile threat. “This is not a drill,” the alert said.
Otoe County is now able to use IPAWS, the Integrate Public Alert Warning System that was used in the Hawaii alert. Cody said the federal system can be used to send out WEA, wireless emergency alerts.
Cody: “So, if there is any type of message we need to send the public, even if they are not registered in Everbridge, we can send out the WEA message. It will send that message to everyone in that area.”
Cody said the county’s Everbridge does not work in the same way the Hawaii system works and said it is not susceptible to the same type of mistake, but elected official notification will still help avoid false alerts.
He said Everbridge has worked well when the county issued a missing person alert and issued water notifications in Syracuse and Talmage.