E-weather service launches

Published 12:05 am Friday, February 24, 2012

Soon, local residents will have immediate severe weather information delivered straight to their cell phone or email account.

Gov. Robert Bentley on Wednesday joined with weather experts and other leaders at the launch of Alabama SAF-T-Net, a new, site-specific weather alerting system that will use email, text messaging and phone calls to warn people of approaching severe weather.

“This is a valuable public service that can help save lives by reaching people in a precise and timely manner,” Bentley said. “By allowing people to receive customized weather warnings for a specific area, we can do an even better job of helping the right people receive the right warnings at the right time.”

Alabama SAF-T-Net is offered to residents throughout the state at no cost. The system was developed by Baron Services Inc., an Alabama-based weather technology company that works closely with the National Weather Service and other agencies to distribute warning information.

The unveiling of SAF-T-Net coincided with the third day of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Alabama. The National Weather Service reminded people that March through May are known as Alabama’s Spring Severe Weather Season, and all people are encouraged to have comprehensive severe weather plans.

Covington County Emergency Management Agency Director Susan Harris said the county has received the necessary equipment to run the program.

“We received the computer and software last week, and we’re working on getting everything installed and online,” Harris said. “This is going to be an outstanding system. The way it looks, we should have things running by the end of March.”

Harris explained the system as a “weather alerts your way” means of getting information.

“The way it works is that each person goes online to register,” she said. “You can designate to get alerts for up to four locations. Then, you say how you want to be notified. This could be via text message or call to one’s cell phone. You can even get email updates or a call to your home phone, if you choose.

“It’s a great way to make sure you’re prepared and warned,” she said. “I’m very excited about it.”

Alabama SAF-T-Net is in line with recommendations from the Tornado Recovery Action Council. One of the recommendations made by TRAC, which was commissioned by Gov. Bentley following the devastating April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak, was a suggestion for “a statewide, integrated severe weather alert system that provides more precise alerts for individuals and businesses than current county-wide warnings.”

“I believe the statewide SAF-T-Net program will complement the existing great work performed by the National Weather Service, our emergency management agencies, and local broadcast meteorologists,” said Ron Gray, executive director of the Tornado Recovery Action Council. “With this program added to our existing system of distributing warnings, the end result will be saving more lives in Alabama.”

Those interested in signing up for SAF-T-Net can visit alabamasaftnet.com.