City Council Approves New Severe Weather Alerting System

SAN ANGELO, TEXAS – Tuesday morning, the San Angelo City Council approved an agreement that would change the way citizens receive warnings, alerting them of severe weather conditions.

Currently, the City uses 29 air sirens to alert residents around the city of hazardous weather. However, due to the age of the siren system and the sparse coverage from the sirens, both San Angelo Police and Fire departments, have recommended that the City switch over to a new software system: Nixle.

Nixle is currently used by the SAPD to alert people of motor vehicle crashes. The City would like to use the “upgraded version” that would work with a federal regulated integrated public alert and warning system “iPause,” said Brian Dunn, San Angelo’s Fire Chief, this morning. The upgraded Nixle system will work similar to amber alerts.

“They will come through no matter what,” added Dunn.

With the new system, residents will be able to receive alerts via landlines, cell phones, local TV stations, and the weather radio. Alerts will also be sent out via SAPD Facebook, Twitter, Google accounts, City Emergency Management and COSA social media accounts.

Furthermore, SAPD’s Public Information Officer, Tracy Gonzales, added, “We are the only phone safety system that partners with Google,” which means that should “somebody [visit] San Angelo and they have not subscribed to Nixle, or they are not residents of San Angelo,” Nixle will still “automatically populate to their [phone].”

The new Nixle system will allow for pre-built messages, e.g. “tornado warning,” for each message sent out. Gonzalez added that the message will not only include what the warning is for, but also a “call to action” and “instructions of what to do and where to go afterwards for help.”

The price for the switch is not as pricey as one may assume.

All 29 sirens and their poles will need to be torn down. Dunn estimates that the demolitions would require a one-time fee of $150,000–a fee that is significantly cheaper than paying approximately $150,000 per new siren head. The City will also need to pay an annual fee of $5,500 to keep the system up to date. This cost is similar to the amount the City is currently paying for electricity on the sirens.

Councilman Lane Carter raised his concern of people not wanting to answer unrecognized phone numbers, to which both Dunn and Gonzalez reassured him that the Nixle landline alert could be automated to show as an official COSA number on caller ID.

After a 30 minute debate, the council approved of the change. Currently, Chief Dunn is in negotiations with iPause in regards to legalities; however, once officially approved, the new system can be used within three to four weeks.

The next city council meeting will take place on April 18 at the McNease Convention Center at 8:30 a.m. As always, all meetings are free and open to the public.