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City turns to technology over sirens for alerts

BY ELLIN WALSH Reporter Published: March 19, 2017 12:00 AM
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TALLMADGE -- Technology is changing the way the city of Tallmadge notifies residents of bad weather or bad situations -- and city officials want to inform the public of this trend.

There are no longer any functioning emergency alert sirens within the city, Deputy Fire Chief Ben Stasik told members of City Council March 9. He urged those who live or work in Tallmadge to sign up for alerts via the CodeRED service.

While CodeRED has been available to Tallmadge residents for severe weather warnings since 2010, Stasik says the city recently upgraded the service; it now alerts residents of any emergency, whether it's a boil advisory, major road closure, parking ban or evacuation notice. "This service will now serve as the primary way to notify the public with critical notifications in the city of Tallmadge," Stasik reports.

Residents can sign-up to receive alerts via phone calls to cellular or landlines, in addition to text messages and email. CodeRED also offers a mobile app for those that want to receive notifications directly to their cellphone based upon geolocation.

The CodeRED service is factored into the city's budget for emergency management purposes, according to Stasik. Tallmadge Finance Director Mollie Gilbride says the city will spend $8,500 on CodeRED this year.

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There were tornado warning sirens in Tallmadge but their reliability and the maintenance of them was an issue for years, according to Mayor David G. Kline. Rather than invest money in upgrading the city's early warning system, Stasik says Tallmadge officials have chosen instead to subscribe to CodeRED. Stasik says a phenomenon has been noted known as "siren fatigue," where many people have become desensitized to such sirens because they've heard them so many times before. He also noted if you're indoors, you may not hear a siren going off.

The city has embarked on a campaign to increase the number of people signed up to receive CodeRED alerts. Noting Tallmadge has a population of 17,500 residents., Stasik says city officials "hope to increase our sign-ups from 3,400 to 5,000 residents" during a three-month campaign which ends in April. "The hope (is) to one day convince all residents to sign-up for this free service," he adds.

Stasik shared a story with council members which he says attests to the usefulness of CodeRED. On March 2, the day after a tornado warning was issued for the city, Stasik says he received a phone call from Susan Aman, safety coordinator for the Waltco Lift Co., 285 Northeast Ave. in Tallmadge. Aman told Stasik a Waltco employee had the CodeRED app on his phone and although he doesn't live in Tallmadge, that employee received the tornado warning and shared the information with his co-workers. "They [Waltco] shut down production and properly sheltered all of their people until the tornado warning passed," Stasik says, adding Aman told him she intends to encourage all Waltco managers to enroll in CodeRED.

Tallmadge City Councilman John Rensel said he is concerned about sending alerts via text, noting not all senior citizens in the city have cell phones. Citing statistics from the Pew Research Center, Stasik said 95 percent of Americans have cell phones. The deputy fire chief suggests residents purchase a weather radio.

"Overall," Stasik says, "we have received very positive feedback from the community" regarding CodeRED. While a few have complained about the severe weather notifications, describing them as being excessive, Stasik says each CodeRED account is completely customizable and residents can change the type of alert and how they receive it at any time.

To register for CodeRED, visit tallmadge-ohio.org/coderedsignup.

Email: ewalsh@recordpub.com.

Phone: 330-541-9419

Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC


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