The Region 22 Emergency Management Agency reports that 1,100 individuals or families have signed up for the regional mass notification system known as Panhandle Alert since it first began in January 2017. Region 22 EMA covers Banner and Scotts Bluff counties. Emergency Management Director Tim Newman is pleased with the system and the number of subscribers, but would like even more to sign up.
“The Panhandle Alert system is like having a warning siren in your pocket”, said Newman. “For weather alerts, the system picks up the same feed as the weather radios and puts that information out over text, email, voice and even Facebook. Sometimes these alerts go off a full minute before a weather alert radio does.” Those minutes, Newman says, can provide more time for someone to take shelter from a storm. This can prevent injuries from hail, such as the storms that hit Kimball, Burns, and Cheyenne recently.
In addition to weather alerts, subscribers will receive any emergency alerts that local officials broadcast, such as chemical spills, major road closures, or snow emergencies.
There is no cost for the service. And registering only takes three or four minutes online. The website, www.panhandlealert.org is a landing page. From there, one clicks on their county and the system will take them to the correct sign-up page. The southern Panhandle counties will see a signup page for “Smart911”. The northern Panhandle counties will see a signup page for CodeRED.
“Sioux, Dawes, Box Butte and Sheridan counties are still on the CodeRED system, but next year, will transition over to Rave Mobile Safety, which is the system that runs the Smart911 app as well as Panhandle Alert. Morrill, Cheyenne, Kimball, Deuel and Garden counties just made the transition in July”, Newman said.
In Scotts Bluff and Banner counties, people needing assistance with getting signed up can either call Region 22 Emergency Management at 436-6689, or can go to the Scottsbluff or Gering Public Libraries and the library staff can help with the registration process.