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Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Brush Wellman to pay for new phone alert system

Staff writer

PORT CLINTON -- Brush Wellman officials Tuesday committed to paying for Ottawa County's community alert system, a notification system used in emergencies.

David Cahill, the director of operations and support services at Brush Wellman, made the presentation in the form of a letter of commitment to Ottawa County commissioners during their regular session.

Cahill said after the meeting that the Feb. 15 release at the Elmore plant spotlighted to county and Brush officials the need for a better system to notify residents of an emergency.

The company notified local emergency agencies and said they might want to contact neighbors. Two families had already left their homes, and no one was home at four other residences targeted for evacuation.

"We all quickly learned it was a difficult prospect to get onto that property and identify a neighbor," he said. "Shortly after that the Ottawa County commissioners approached us about the (alert system), and asked if we would be interested in helping. It struck us pretty deeply that that's a good system to notify residents."

Commissioners approved the agreement with Community Alert Notification System a couple of weeks ago, but the system won't be put in place until the county cuts a check for the company, said Jim Greer, director of the Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency.

The system allows dispatchers at the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office to contact Community Alert Notification and request a certain area in the county be notified about an emergency.

The company uses its 250 phone lines to call residents to pass along a message recorded by Ottawa County officials.

Those messages can range based on the emergency, Greer said. For example, officials can tell residents not to worry, they will not be affected by something going on, or officials could warn residents of the need to evacuate.

It could also be used in other immediate situations, such as boil advisories or to notify the community of a missing child.

The system will likely be ready by January 2002, he said.

The letter from Brush Wellman stated that it will make the commitment to pick up the tab for the system as long as the company is financially able to support it, Greer said.

Cahill said he didn't see a problem with the funding, because the amount was fairly moderate.

The county will pay the bill yearly, then Brush Wellman will reimburse the county on a monthly basis.

In the first year the bill will likely start around $1,200 a month, then drop to less than a $1,000 a month each year after.

The first year is more expensive because of the training and information exchange involved.