Local leaders working on high-tech upgrades for storm warnings ahead of Hurricane Season

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by Timothy Wetzel / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on May 14, 2012 at 8:06 AM

Updated Monday, May 14 at 8:16 AM

HOUSTON, Texas – Storm warnings are about to go high tech.  Local leaders are testing a new system using billboards to alert motorists of emergencies, and federal authorities are developing another alert system that will send messages out through cell phones.

The Gulf Coast Emergency Communications Network will launch billboards throughout the Houston area Monday morning.  Clear Channel Communications and emergency managers are teaming up to use electronic advertising billboards to alert residents of hurricanes, severe weather or other emergencies.
The system will be tested Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  Drivers will see an emergency alert on billboards and the message, “This is only a test.”  The goal is to have the system ready for the start of hurricane season on June 1.
While local leaders work on that system, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is partnering with cell phone carriers to provide emergency alerts via cell phones.  Cell phone users will receive a special text message whenever there is major severe weather or other threat in their area.
The Wireless Emergency Alerts will work on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and other cell phone carriers.  Customers will receive the emergency message with a special tone.  The messages are sent out based on location. 
The text messages will not cost and the customers can opt-out of the warnings by contacting their phone carrier.  Cell phone companies are working to have the system ready and in place by the end of May.

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