updated 2:19 PM UTC, Oct 15, 2020

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Tyler County Gets New 'I.R.I.S.' Emergency Mass Notification System

by Dale Freeman, Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator

 
If you have seen the ads on TV about how fast is your phone service, you get the drift of how our society is moving into the Technological Age where instantaneous knowledge of what is happening around you is most important. One of Tyler County's more attractive attributes (in contrast to the rest of the world) is it's sleepy, non-rushing pace of life where we do things at our own pace and our own style. In times of emergency, this, possibly our (Tyler County's) most desirous quality, can be a hindrance to our safety and recovery from an emergency.

However, not to be left behind during an emergency when time does matter, Tyler County, being very careful to not change our way of living, is moving in the direction of the rest of the world in regards to emergency notifications.

The Tyler County Commissioner's Court has contracted with a "mass notification" system called "I.R.I.S." The purpose of this system is, in the event of an emergency creating a necessity; we can instantly notify a large number of people with a single sending of a single message. This system allows us to group people in several categories. It may be by the community where you live, where you work, or by a service that you receive. We can even notify everyone in the system with a single sent message.

If we have notice from the National Weather Service of a "Storm Watch" where possibly a tornado was spotted headed toward one of our communities, we can instantly react. We would send a single message via the internet from any computer that notifies everyone in that community of the danger with instructions to seek shelter. We can send messages to a single group or the whole county. An Emergency Management Operator would type the message and send it to the system. The System would distribute the message to the designated recipients. The system receives the text message and turns it into a voice message for land line phones and sends the text/or voice message to cell phones.

Each household in Tyler County is allotted five (5) methods of contact. You can, if you like, have your home phone receiving a voice message. You and your spouse can get a text message on your cell phones. You can get an Email of the message. And finally, your teenager can get the mass notification on their cell phone as well.

Getting on the program is easy. All you do is complete and return a simple information sheet where your information is captured and inputted into the system. From there, the rest is done by Emergency Management and the system.

We believe this is a major accomplishment of Tyler County that will be of great benefit to our citizens. We can use it, should we have another disaster, to notify where emergency assistance services can be received. I can think of countless situations where it will benefit us and could very well save lives and injuries.

Information will be relayed to the local media and will be put out by them immediately through their resources as well.

Friday, I had a very good meeting with the Tyler County Booster Staff. I learned that they now have their own website where they have daily entries of news stories. As stories happen and are received, they are posted on the site and not kept till the end of the week when the weekly paper is printed. By reading the website you can keep up with most everything that is occurring (at least an abbreviated version of the story).

The web site also comes with a pop up ad capability. I am sure you have all endured the pop-up ads when you are surfing the web and you have to read or at least cancel off the ad before viewing the site. Normally the website sells this ad space for profit or to finance the site. The Tyler County Booster does not want to place this nuisance on their viewers to the website. Instead, this pop-up ad space will be reserved for Emergency Management use for emergency notifications. If there is a situation such as a major car wreck blocking the roadway, we could put a brief initial statement of the location of the wreck and ask the citizens to avoid the area if at all possible. The same would occur with severe weather or other emergencies. A brief description could be given of what is occurring and instructions for safety and/or smooth interaction with the normal activities of our citizens.

We also discussed the Tyler County Booster providing a link to the Facebook page of "Tyler County Emergency Management". On this "Tyler County Emergency Management" Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tyler-County-Emergency-Management/242049542505977) there is information and pictures of things occurring in Tyler County and how they are being dealt with by our emergency service providers.

I encourage every household in Tyler County to complete and return their mass notification information forms so that they will be receiving the mass notifications should the situation require it. We hope and pray that this is not needed but as in all things with Emergency Management, "we hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

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