The Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters Tuesday launched an updated system to notify the public during weather-related emergencies.
Officials said OEM is now the first local emergency agency in Tennessee to be able to directly issue public notices for broadcast via an Emergency Alert System (EAS). Previously, only the National Weather Service could issue such alerts.
“The aftermath of the May floods underscored the critical roles local officials must perform in emergency response situations,” Mayor Karl Dean said.
Using a secure web portal, OEM will activate alerts by sending an encoded text-to-voice message signal to Clear Channel Radio’s WSIX, the local primary alert station. The station then will relay the message to all area radio and television stations, as well as cable television systems. Decoders at each station will immediately override the programs in progress and broadcast the alert.
With the upgrade, according to officials, Nashville is positioned for the next generation of emergency alert systems that federal authorities are developing. OEM’s recently installed new equipment meets requirements of a new digital message format FEMA adopted in September.
The mayor’s office and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters are coordinating the effort with the Nashville Fire Department and the Metro Police Department.
Fire chief Stephen Halford said the National Weather Service will continue to issue weather warnings via the EAS.
“We are supplementing the existing weather alert system, not replacing it,” Halford said. “The Weather Service will still issue the all-important warnings about weather threats. After severe weather hits, OEM will now be able to quickly alert people to dangers that have resulted from a major severe weather event.”