NMB, National Weather Service team up for emergency alerts

By Kyle Grainger - bio | email

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – North Myrtle Beach Emergency Management officials say they've developed a system with the National Weather Service in Columbia to send out alerts over weather radios in the event of an emergency.

After the Horry County wildfire in April 2009, a task force was put together to look at emergency notification issues and come up with ways to solve them. Tom Powell, who has lived in the Barefoot community since 2004, says he has never witnessed an event like the wildfire and hopes he'll never have to live through one again.

"When I looked at the dash cam videos, I saw where the policemen were in front of the house blowing their horns as loud as they could [and] blowing their sirens and they still had to bang on the doors to get people up," said Powell.  "We've all worked together and I think we've got the system in place now. The next big catch is to get people to buy the weather alert radios and to turn them on and use them."

Powell says with so many potential emergency systems, a text alert may not be the fastest way to get the word out. He also fears it won't wake people up during the night if a serious event were to occur.

"I said, 'There's got to be a better way. There's got to be a better way,'" Powell added. "It's happened all over. You see it all the time where all of a sudden there was a sudden evacuation required."

The solution was teaming with NOAA's weather alert system, which Powell says will wake people who are asleep.

North Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Tom Barstow says the National Weather Service was easy to work with, and he was able to set up five different types of alerts the city can use. He says all it takes is a phone call.

"It's no time at all," said Barstow. "All we have to do is make a phone call to the National Weather Service from our dispatch center. They will put the announcement out and then we'll follow it up with a fax."

Horry County Emergency Management Director Randy Webster says all state and local jurisdictions have the ability to set up a means of coordination with the National Weather Service.

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