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Public Gets All-Hazards Radios Under Proposal

For more information contact:

Joanne Haas, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823
David Janda, Communication and Warning Specialist/Deputy Director of Emergency Management, 266-5950

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 4/5/2007

Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
Falk urges County Board OK of pilot radio program as part of
County’s comprehensive warning system

Dane County would partner with certain local governments to distribute quality all-hazards alert radios to residents under a pending pilot program proposed to add to the county’s comprehensive warning system.

The pilot program, which would provide an effective alternative warning system where siren coverage is limited, is up for approval by the Dane County Board of Supervisors at tonight’s meeting – four days before the start of Wisconsin’s Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week, April 9 – 13.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said if the County Board approves the resolution, she will sign the proposal immediately.

“Last weekend’s round of severe storms was a blunt reminder of how important the warning system is to public safety,” Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said. “The County already operates a comprehensive warning system. However, our county population expands by 6,000 each year so it is essential to continually review how we serve and to implement changes to reflect a changing county.

“This pilot program is a valid way to test if the distribution of these all-hazards radios is an effective way to reach more people,” Falk said. “If it proves successful, I will include more dollars for it in the 2008 budget.”

Under the pilot program proposal, Dane County Emergency Management would make a bulk purchase of all-hazards radios and work through local officials to resell them at a low cost. The radios will be National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) units equipped to issue direct warnings to the public for natural and manmade disasters.

County residents living outside the pilot program areas also may purchase radios. Dane County is seeking applications from community leaders interested in having their municipalities participate in the 2007 pilot slated to run for 90 days beginning in May.

“Here’s a way to let folks in the outlying reaches, beyond the siren system, know if there is trouble ahead – and just what that trouble might be,” said Supervisor Patrick Downing of the Town of Perry, the lead sponsor of the pending pilot program resolution. “Plus, radios will provide more information and reliability at a fraction of the cost of the siren system.”

Dane County operates a comprehensive warning system consisting of multiple components to provide warning information to the public. These various components include the public broadcast media, Internet and e-mail notifications, telephone and TTY contacts, specific radio bands such as the NOAA Weather Radio and the outdoor warning sirens. Dane County owns and maintains 92 sirens of the 114 total sirens on the county siren network. Local governments own the other sirens.

Records from Wisconsin Emergency Management show Dane County has the worst tornado record among all counties from 1982-2006. During that period, Dane County recorded 27 tornado events involving one death and 60 injuries. Marathon County also recorded 27 tornado events, but had no deaths and three injuries.

The worst tornado outbreak in the state’s history was Aug. 18, 2005, when 27 tornadoes hit the state. The counties that recorded the worst tornado storm damage that day included Dane, where one person was killed, Richland and Vernon counties. The state department says about 21 tornadoes hit Wisconsin each year.

As part of 2007 Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week, the National Weather Service on April 12 will stage a mock tornado watch and mock tornado warnings unless there is severe weather in the state. As of part of this statewide exercise on April 12, the National Weather service will issue a mock tornado warning for Dane County on April 12 from 1:20 – 1:25 p.m.

“This is an opportune time for Dane County residents to prepare themselves and their home for severe weather,” Falk said.

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