published Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Bugs fixed in Walker County, Ga., tornado warning system

David Ashburn is the Walker County Coordinator
David Ashburn is the Walker County Coordinator
By Ryan Harris

Officials say a glitch has been fixed in a new computerized phone system that alerts Walker County, Ga., residents about impending natural disasters such as tornadoes, wildfires and floods.

The system, made by Rochester, N.Y.-based Sam Asher Computing Services Inc., was slow to call residents during a March 18 tornado warning. It finally alerted 3,000 residences, but then the calls were stopped because the warning had expired, County Coordinator David Ashburn said.

Russ Bell, vice president of sales for Sam Asher Computing Services Inc., said, "There was a glitch."

The system is set up so warning calls come from a local number instead of an outside area code. That way, Walker County residents won't ignore the call, thinking it's a telemarketer.

"The glitch was in the configuration of the local number," Bell said.

Walker County emergency personnel called the company immediately to say warning calls weren't going out, Ashburn said.

Bell said, "Once we were made aware of it, we fixed [the problem]. We got online and fixed it in 10 minutes. Part of our service is a 24-hour live operator tech service."

The company's calling system worked fine, Bell added, during tornado warnings about a month earlier near Gatlinburg, Tenn.

"Right next door, there were 15 counties in Tennessee that the tornado warnings went out perfectly," Bell said.

Walker County spent $23,000 in federal hazard mitigation grant money to pay for two years of the emergency notification system, which also lets the county call its emergency personnel all at once.

Ashburn said he expects it should work fine now.

"As far as I know, everything's OK," he said. "But it's like anything else in the world, it can malfunction."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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