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Long gone are the days of the town crier, and soon the familiar tornado sirens will be a distant memory. Even weather alert radios, while useful and dependable, have their limitations.

As technology evolves, so too should our means of staying informed about severe weather, road closures and similar emergencies.

The next step in this evolution in Shelby County is a partnership with Everbridge Resident Alerts to keep residents, businesses and emergency personnel safe and informed with quick and reliable emergency notifications and public service announcements.

The partnership was announced by the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, and the system is live and ready for residents to register (you can do so by visiting EMA.ShelbyAL.com then clicking “SIGN UP: ShelbyALerts Everbridge Notifications”).

Though some grew accustomed to the wailing sirens to alert them when a tornado threatened, this system was dangerous because maintenance of the sirens was an issue and the sound was often only audible if you were outside. And then, the alert was unspecific, issued county-wide with no further details.

Weather alert radios have now become commonplace in homes across the county, and for good reason. Once programmed, these radios can be set to a volume you can hear throughout your home, even if you are asleep. And they give the full warning or watch as issued by the National Weather Service.

Some local municipalities have gone so far as to give away free weather radios and program them for residents. Their importance can not be overstated. Every home should have one.

But what about when you are in your vehicle or at work—away from your weather radio? That’s where the new alert system comes in, and it will also inform residents about other critical situations such as fires, floods, water utility maintenance and more.

Messages will be sent to residents on their preferred contact paths—cell phone, SMS, home phone, email, fax, pager and more.

Users can submit up to five different address points—for their home, workplace, schools or anywhere for which they would like to receive relevant notifications—and choose whether to receive EMA and/or weather alerts.

All Shelby County residents should take advantage of this opportunity for real-time access to potentially life-saving information.

Stephen Dawkins is a staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 537 or by email at stephen.dawkins@shelbycountyreporter.com.