COUNTY LAUNCHES EMERGENCY WARNING SYSTEM FOR SMALL-SCALE EVENTS

COUNTY LAUNCHES EMERGENCY WARNING SYSTEM FOR SMALL-SCALE EVENTS

Doña Ana County's Office of Emergency Management, the county's Public Information Office and the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority have finalized new procedures for quick community notification of small-scale emergencies.

The initiative to develop a more localized notification process was spurred by events last February, when the regional Emergency Broadcast System was activated following a small-scale but potentially hazardous accident on Valley Drive north of Las Cruces.

"We learned a lot from the events in February," said Jess Williams, director of the Doña Ana County Public Information Office. "We learned that the EBS system is immediate and largely limited in its range of messages. The result was a lot of community confusion about the scope of the situation at hand and whether a county-wide evacuation was being recommended. We don't ever want to send a message of that scope again unless it's absolutely warranted."

Under the new system, Williams said the Office of Emergency Management will coordinate with law enforcement agents in the field and MVRDA to assess the scope of any given situation and to begin an appropriate notification strategy. First, the county's Public Information Office will be notified, then a multi-tiered fax notification system will be implemented from the Office of Emergency Management to notify media outlets, particularly radio and television stations, of specific information related to planned traffic diversions, threats to public safety and/or other relevant data. The Public Information Office will coordinate subsequent media interviews. The Office of Emergency Management will provide back-up support and inter-agency communication.

"We're hopeful and confident," Williams said, "that the new system will better allow us to target specific problems in localized areas without unduly alarming residents across the county. We need to be able to communicate hazardous situations in a manner that is efficient and appropriate to the scope of the event to which we're responding. We'll reserve activation of the Emergency Broadcast System for truly large-scale events that require a much broader notification process."

For more information, call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7229.