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Thursday storm first CodeRED warning event
Just before a storm front with high winds rolled through McCook Thursday night, a lot of us received our first call from the Red Willow County CodeRED Emergency Notification System.
It was the first true use of the system, implemented last October, and it seemed to work in a timely manner, with most of us receiving calls on our cell phones or land lines in time to take appropriate action.
Sheriff Gene Mahon said he received the Code RED call before notification from the National Weather Service and just before a call from the McCook Police Department.
The storm skirted the McCook area, but did hit here hard enough to take out power for about an hour, blow down signs and tree limbs.
The incident is evidence that Nebraska is in pretty good shape when it comes to emergency notification, a topic recently addressed by the Obama administration in The President's Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative.
Undertaken in response to communication difficulties encountered during the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, the initiative seeks to create a fully interoperable nationwide network, save money by standardizing systems, and take advantage of commercial technology and systems such as smartphones from any source, thus enhancing public safety.
In January, Nebraska took a big step toward those goals when Gov. Dave Heineman activated the final phase of Nebraska's statewide wireless network.
The network took 16 months to complete, and is owned and operated by the State of Nebraska and Nebraska Public Power District. It involved the installation of communications equipment at six Nebraska State Patrols communications centers across the state and at the NPPD Operations Center, construction of two new radio towers and upgrades of more than 50 towers across the state, and deployment of more than 1,300 radios used by the State Patrol, State Fire Marshal, Department of Roads and NPPD.
Other participating agencies using or expected to use the system include the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the Nebraska National Guard, Departments of Agriculture, Correctional Services, Environmental Quality, Health and Human Services and others.
Thankfully, there was relatively little damage from the overnight storm, but there were probably people who made it to safety in time because of the advance warning.
That's just one example of what we are sure will be many examples of the advantage of having good communications.