Rubbertown Residents Weigh Potential Emergency Alert Systems

by Erica Peterson on June 23, 2011

After an explosion at Carbide Industries’ Rubbertown chemical plant led to community confusion, Metro Government promised to improve the area’s public alert system. Last night, community members heard from the two finalists in the running to install their systems in Louisville.

Eleven companies submitted bids, but Metro Government narrowed that number down to two. Those two companies—Florida-based Emergency Communications Network and Ohio-based 21st Century Communications—presented their systems to residents at the Southwick Community Center.

The two systems are similar. Both would allow people to sign up on a website, and receive different emergency and weather-related alerts by phone, text, email, or through social networking sites.

Eboni Cochran is a member of Rubbertown Emergency ACTion, an activist group. She told the mayor that any system should be able to give detailed instructions, even when it’s limited to a 160-character text message to avoid confusion with commands like ‘shelter in place.’

“Some people may think you need to go to your basement, which can be one of the most dangerous places to go in a chemical incident,” she said. “So we need to figure out a way to do a really good 160 text message that gives them some information.”

But for many, an alert system, no matter how comprehensive, won’t address the root of the problem. Tom Pearce is a member of the local Sierra Club chapter.

“The chemical alert monitoring triggers—they’re only checked every two or three days,” he said. “If there’s a chemical release, there’s no instantaneous trigger.”

The city will make a decision within the next two weeks, and hopes to have the alert system functional by mid-August.

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