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Franklin County EMA gains access to federal warning system

FRANKLIN CO. (WSIL) — September is "National Preparedness Month," and in an effort to be better prepared, the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency now has access to the federal government’s alert system. 

"When lives hang in the balance, the quicker we get the information out, the more lives that could possibly be saved," said Director of Emergency Management Ryan Buckingham. 

Buckingham says the federal government’s alert system, called IPAWS, will allow his agency to activate multiple warning systems at once. That means messages will go straight to cell phones, radios and broadcast on your TV.

He calls this a "significant upgrade" than what they had before when messages had to be requested from the National Weather Service. 

"We’d have to craft the message, language wise, then send it to them, then they basically reproduce it and put it out so there could be a significant delay," said Buckingham. 

Buckingham says he’s only had to send out a warning for the entire county once, during the 2018 Water Crisis. But he says there are several instances when it may come in handy. 

"Unfortunately, in our county, we’ve seen several train derailments. Luckily, they have not been major chemical emergencies, but the potential is there," said Buckingham. 

This alert is different than Nixle alerts. Nixle you sign up for, but IPAWS can be sent out to everyone in the county if needed. 

"It allows us to serve the citizens better and inform them faster," said Buckingham. 

He says this capability gives local EMA officials immediate access when it’s time to jump into action. 

Buckingham says it took more than a month to get approved for IPAWS because of a strict vetting process with state emergency management and the Department of Homeland Security. 

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News 3 Staff

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