Emergency signal sitting on a shelf

911 board unsure how to fund alert system


A small machine programmed to alert Moffat County residents to emergency situations has functioned as a storage shelf in recent year.

County emergency officials have debated whether to install an Emergency Alert System, or EAS, which the state gave to the county nearly seven years ago. It would allow emergency messages to be broadcast over local radio and television stations.

But the emergency management team is debating whether it's worth the cost to get the EAS functioning.

"It will cost $1,000 to put it in and $56 a month, indefinitely, to pay for the phone line to operate it. That will add up over the years," Clyde Anderson said Tuesday during a 911 board meeting. Anderson is the emergency manager for Moffat County.

The 911 committee, which includes representatives from local law enforcement agencies, was formed to oversee expenditures of the county's 911 funds.

Board members agreed Tuesday to wait on a decision to fund the installation of the EAS until they determine whether it's required by state or federal mandate.

The main goal of EAS is to place the nation's broadcast system at the disposal of the U.S. president, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The president is the only person allowed to activate the system at the national level, but state or local officials can issue warnings in the event of a local emergency.

However, the county already has the use of an emergency warning system called Intrado. It allows state or local officials to send pre-recorded messages to residents over the telephone.

Intrado is useful because officials have the option of warning only a select group residents in the case of a pertinent emergency, board members said.

This can ward off inciting unnecessary panic among all residents, said Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta, who also serves on the 911 board.

But Vanatta questioned the likelihood of something catastrophic happening that residents couldn't find out about through the mainstream media. He also questioned whether the board could justify committing to spend money on the EAS system without knowing if it would ever get used.

"I'm trying to visualize when we'd use this," Vanatta said. "If it's something we're not going to use, I don't want to have to pay for it."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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