June 14, 2013

Whitfield commissioners start planning for 2014

Charles Oliver

— The members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners took the first steps in putting together their 2014 budget on Thursday with an all-day meeting at the trade center.

Commissioners met with department heads and other officials to discuss the status of their departments and their needs for 2014 and the near future.

Officials with Whitfield County 911 noted that the system’s computers were installed at the end of 2007 and they are now past their expected five-year life.

“We are getting to the point where we are having to replace more things than we can keep up with,” said Emergency Management Director Claude Craig.

Craig told commissioners that in addition to replacing aging equipment the county needs to prepare for the so-called Next Generation 911, an effort by the United States and Canada to allow the public to transmit text, photographs, video and other data to 911 centers when they report an emergency. Craig said standards for Next Generation haven’t been fully developed but they could come within the next few years.

Craig told commissioners he has looked at emergency warning sirens. He said they do offer the ability to warn people of severe weather when they are outside. But he said they also have several downsides. People in vehicles or inside buildings may not hear them, and he said they are costly to install and maintain. He said it could cost $6 million just to install a warning siren system in Whitfield County.

He said he recommends they continue to push the county’s CodeRed reverse 911 system to warn people of severe weather and other emergencies and to continue efforts to get people to use severe weather radios. Craig said he is looking at grants that could help county residents who are deaf or blind get special severe weather radios they can use.

CodeRed provides two services for the county. First, it allows county officials to issue telephone emergency notifications to residents, such as alerting them to chemical spills and other emergencies. Those alerts can be targeted to specific parts of the county and can be tailored to give residents instructions on how they should react.

CodeRed also alerts residents to severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service. Residents have to sign up for this service. To sign up, just go to the Whitfield County website (www.whitfieldcountyga.com) and click on the CodeRed logo.