Funding from two companies brought the City of Odessa a step closer to purchasing a new $15,000 mass notification system that will send text messages to residents’ cell phones.
During a regular meeting for the Local Emergency Planning Committee Thursday in the Commissioners Court, the LEPC accepted donations from the petroleum company Berry Oil and the energy company Exelon. Funding from the companies brought the LEPC to $13,000.
“These donations will allow us to upgrade our communications system, which only allows us to call landlines,” Emergency Management Coordinator and Assistant Fire Chief Stan Tinney said. “This new system will let us send text messages to cell phones after people subscribe to the service.”
Tinney said the last time the notification system was used was in September 2011, during an H2S gas leak scare in Gardendale. No evidence of a leak was found during that time.
Currently, the city’s only notification method is through a landline register used by the 9-1-1 emergency center. City of Odessa Spokeswoman Andrea Goodson said there is no siren system in place currently.
“In today’s world, the ability to notify people in a speedy manner can help keep them safer,” Tinney said.
Tinney said the mass notification system will send text messages in emergency situations, such as natural disasters and severe weather warnings.
On March 19, an EF2 tornado touched down in Gardendale, damaging a mobile home.
Furthermore, on Wednesday, grapefruit-sized hail found its way to north Lea County Culberson County and Reeves County Wednesday evening, National Weather Service lead forecaster Greg Murdock said.
Culberson County and Lea County also received winds blowing 60 to 70 miles per hour, although there was no significant dip in the temperature, Murdock said.
While no tornadoes were seen, there was a wall cloud, which is a lowering from a parent thunderstorm where a tornado would come out of, Murdock said.
The City of Midland is also looking at moving toward upgrading its mass notification system, and has an item on the city council’s April 24 agenda to consider its purchase.
Currently, the City of Midland’s website has an option to include one’s cell phone for notification. However, the system is not a mass notification system.
“We don’t do mass notifications. The system has a map, and we can call those people in the affected area,” City of Midland Communications Manager Eva Luna said. “The reason we put cell phone up there is that with more and more people getting cell phones, we thought we ought to be able to contact them that way too.”
Tinney said they hope to have the new mass notification system running by this June.