County board approves emergency alert system

Gary Johnson, manager, Marquette County Central Dispatch

MARQUETTE –The Marquette County Board of Commissioners at its June 18 meeting unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding for interjurisdictional cooperation to enhance public alerting capabilities.

Commissioner Joe Derocha was absent from the meeting.

The memorandum of understanding, or MOU, states that in the event of an emergency, the jurisdiction where the emergency originated from can send an alert using the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to any participating jurisdictions in the MOU.

“This is if something that happens in the area is catastrophic, we would alert anyone in the area who has a cell phone that’s on in that area; they would get alerted,” said Teresa Schwalbach, emergency management program coordinator for Marquette County.

The approved MOU includes the jurisdictions of all 15 Upper Peninsula counties.

“The MOU may be used when there is an incident other than a weather event, which may impact an area outside of the incident jurisdiction and the incident may impact the outside jurisdiction within 30 minutes, or a request from another MOU signatory county,” board documents state.

For an alert to be made through IPAWS, the incident cannot be a weather emergency, it must impact people outside of the incident jurisdiction within 30 minutes of the onset, and the incident’s impact to people outside of the jurisdiction may be endangered if action is not taken by the public, such as if evacuation is necessary or a shelter is in place.

“It is a very specific type set of emergencies, basically threats to life,” said Gary Johnson, manager of Marquette County Central Dispatch. “So it would be like civil disturbance, active shooter, riot, that kind of thing, forest fire, a hazardous material incident where we have to evacuate or there’s a shelter in place, those types of things. It’s not weather related. The National Weather Service handles those alerts, tornadoes and that kind of thing, that’s not what it does.”

Johnson said such a system would help spread awareness of emergencies more quickly and efficiently while allowing the counties to work more closely together.

Board members asked how the system is different than the Rave System, a state and local emergency notification system.

“The biggest difference is Rave is an opt-in program. You have to sign up for these alerts,” Johnson said. “IPAWS, we basically select a geographic area where we need an alert and it sends the message to the cell towers in the area so any local residents, anyone traveling that has a cell phone that is affiliated with those towers is going to get that alert. It’s much more like an Amber Alert or the Presidential Text that was done a while back. You don’t have a choice. If you have a cell phone and it is turned on, you’re going to get a warning and that’s why it’s very specific on the types of emergencies that we can send that alert out to.”

The MOU will be reviewed each January and the state of Michigan must be notified of any changes. A copy of the MOU will also be forwarded to the state and Federal Emergency Management Agency IPAWS office.

The board also approved a bid to replace the existing central heating system for the county jail and annex, which was installed in 1972.

Three bids were submitted to the county and the board approved the lowest bid from U.P. Engineers & Architects Inc. for $37,860.

Funding for the project will come from the Severance Tax Reserve Fund.

An evaluation of the energy load of the buildings and a design that is “robust, expandable and energy efficient” will be the first stage of replacing the system, board documents state.

At the meeting the board also:

≤ Signed a three-year lease with the city of Marquette for a 10-space parking lot at the southwest corner of Baraga Avenue and Third Street for a rate of $3,600 annually. The lease will automatically renew and could be increased by 3% upon renewal.

≤ Purchased a zero-turn commercial mower for the maintenance of Perkins Park and Campground for about $17,400 from Four Seasons Small Engine Inc.

≤ Approved the replacement of the county email system.

≤ Approved an agenda to work with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians to act as a pass-through agency for 2% funds being requested on behalf of five agencies.

≤ Appointed Kurt Gravedoni to the Marquette County Solid Waste Authority board.

≤ Approved Jack Doheny Companies to contract with the county to replace the K.I. Sawyer Water/Wastewater Department Vactor truck tank after its recent collapse.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is photos@miningjournal.net.