System asks residents to share cost
Alert-Fairfield County is the emergency notification system whereupon county residents receive phone calls for community alerts or in the case of severe weather.
Fairfield County Emergency Management Agency Director Jon Kochis said budget cuts have left him no other choice but to appeal to entities throughout Fairfield County to help pay for what he said is an essential tool in keeping the public safe.
"Alert-Fairfield County has been in place since 2008," Kochis said.
"It's the reverse notification system where we call the community in the event of an emergency and let them know what's going on," he said.
"There's no grant funding available for the program," Kochis said.
"In the past we've been funded by (the Department of) Homeland Security, that has ended," he said.
He said his office came up with a plan in which communities across Fairfield County would share in paying the cost of the program, tabbed at about $17,000 a year.
Kochis appeared before Pickerington City Council June 4 to pitch his plan to have the city pay what amounts to an annual per capita share of 6 cents per city resident to help fund the program.
He said half of the yearly bill, $8,500, will already be "paid by the (Fairfield) County Commissioners through the General Revenue Fund."
"Jurisdictions (would) pay the remaining half, across all townships, villages and cities," Kochis said.
"For Pickerington, we asked for no more than $1,150 per year," he said.
"We're looking for a three-year commitment for the program."
He said the contract with the current vendor for Alert-Fairfield expires June 30. Therefore, in the interests of expediency, he is asking all entities to give informal approval now and worry about official resolutions later.
"If they think the dollar amount is a good thing we can take their acknowledgment over e-mail, it will save a couple of meetings," Kochis said.
He said FCEMA approached Lancaster and Pickerington first because "the cities had a tremendous amount of cost share due to (their) populations."
Kochis said the June 4 meeting with Pickerington officials "was pretty favorable."
"I'm pretty sure they think it's a valuable service to have," said Kochis.
He said most of the smaller villages in Fairfield County will end up paying about $50 a year.
"It's a good deal," Kochis said. "Every dollar amount is spent at the local level."
He said Alert-Fairfield has been a success in disseminating messages pertaining to the health, safety and welfare of the community.
Kochis gave an example in which the system was successfully activated to locate a missing 12-year old girl in Lancaster.
"No one knew where she was," he said.
"A caller saw her riding her bike, called 911 and within 15 minutes she was found," Kochis said.
He said the system has been used before to notify residents of jail escapes as well.
There is now a component for tornado warnings, which will be sent directly to subscribers when the National Weather Service creates a tornado warning, Kochis said.
"It's really another tool in our warning system, we're happy it's there."
He said county residents can set up how they want to receive emergency warnings.
Landline phones are already entered into the system's database, but Kochis encouraged residents to submit their cellphones or e-mail information as well.
To find out more information about the Alert-Fairfield County Emergency Notification System or to register your cell or VOIP phone in the emergency call system, go to www. fairfieldema.com.