Howard County EMA prepared for severe weather with $3.5 million emergency communication system

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Emergency officials in Howard County are getting ready for severe weather season and have made some changes to make sure their first responders are prepared.

“It is going to be more streamlined,” said Howard County Emergency Management Director Janice Hart.

The new emergency communication system will allow first responders in Howard County and across the state to communicate together during emergency situations.

“We will all switch to one channel where we can monitor what the sheriff’s department is seeing and they can monitor what we are seeing and hearing,” said Hart.

Those improvements come just in time for severe weather season in central Indiana, a season that Hart knows very well.

“It seems to start in the southwest area of Howard County and as it moves in it is central Kokomo and east that way,” said Hart.

Every second counts in those severe weather events like back in 2016 when tornados ripped through Kokomo and destroyed homes and businesses in its path.

“We had the five tornados two years ago in August and thank God we had no deaths and very minimal injury,” said Hart.

During those tornados, EMA crews were out in the field and could not communicate with sheriff’s deputies, fire crews, or state police. In turn, they missed out on important information that needed to be relayed to the national weather service.

“It was my warning officer that said you know…all of us should all go to one talk channel,” said Hart. “It is really critical in emergency situations for all of out first responders to communicate with each other and our new radio system certainly gives us that opportunity.”

Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman says that led to a discussion about a new 911 system.

Wyman says the county used $3.5 million out of money they had set aside to replace the old system which was more than two decades old.

“It is our whole 911 system. It is our emergency communication system not just with the public but with all the first responders in general. This is a critical item for us to have in the county government to do our operations,” said Wyman.

Howard County EMA has been testing their tornado drill system for about a month to ensure their warnings about potential weather threats are working before it is too late.

“It is going to be more streamlined and all in all I think it will be a lot better for the community,” said Hart.

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