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BAY CITY (WJRT) - (10/04/11) - Bay County now has an emergency alert system.

Oct 04, 2011

The first message the county wants to send out is for residents to sign up for the alerts.

Bay County already has 51,000 land lines in their alert system, but it now wants the cell phone numbers, too.

"I think things today in Bay County got a whole lot safer," said Leonard Norman, Bay County's 911 Director.

Safer in that everyone in Bay County who signs up with BAY Alerts, will now be notified instantly of severe weather, road closure notices and other information by way of phone or the Internet.

"Let's pretend we have a barricaded gunman in a neighborhood and it's the summer, it's 8 o'clock at night, people are out and about, wouldn't it be wonderful to send a polygon of calls in that immediate area," Norman said.

Bay County has been looking at getting a system like this for years, but they were too expensive. Over the years, the prices have come down, and Bay County will be paying a little more than $17,000 each year for the system.

"It's something you plan for, it's something you buy, it's something you hope you never need, but I think at the end of the day, in your heart of hearts, it will be activated from time to time," Norman said.

The big feature of the alert system will be weather notifications.

"When the National Weather Service sends out an alert based on their polygons, that area, then we geo-locate that information and alerts will go out to those individuals under that watch or warning," said Chris Izworski, Bay County's Emergency Management Coordinator.

There are two ways to sign up: You can to Bay County's website and register cell phones numbers and email addresses and cell phone users can text "BAY Alerts" to 69310.