Statewide weather alert system could have local applications

Published 6:09 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

Thousands have signed up for the Alabama SAF-T-Net alerting system, and Chilton County residents who do so could soon benefit from the service on a local level.

Gov. Robert Bentley last month announced the creation of SAF-T-Net, which has been touted as a “revolutionary” weather warning system.

When people sign up for the free service, they enter their address and a method for them to be contacted, whether it be a call to a cell phone or home phone, text message or email.

Then, when the National Weather Service issues a weather warning for an area that includes the submitted address, an alert is sent.

A unique feature of the system is its specificity, Chilton County 911 Director Dan Wright said. A storm that is threatening Clanton, for example, wouldn’t trigger an alert for all of Chilton County, only for the part of the county included in an NWS polygon warning area.

“As of today, people are depending on these warning sirens,” Wright said. “If they choose to sign up for this program, they’re giving themselves another way to be alerted about severe weather.”

Wright said the county can also make use of the system.

911 could take a database of all county residents registered for SAF-T-Net alerts and use it to warn people of other emergency situations that might arise.

“Let’s say we have a (hazardous materials) incident and we need to notify everybody in a certain area–even people downwind of a chemical spill, for example,” Wright said. “We can use this software to define a certain area on the map and then send a mass alert to everyone in that area.”

Wright said he attended a regional Emergency Management Agency meeting in Prattville this past week that focused on SAF-T-Net and said he is excited about its potential–and simplicity for the people that would be working behind the scenes to keep local residents informed of emergency situations.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” he said.

Improvements to SAF-T-Net are possible and could include tracking smart phones and sending alerts whenever the phone is located in an area that a warning has been issued for, Wright said. This would allow for warnings wherever a person might be at the time of severe weather, instead of just to stationary home addresses.

Sign up for severe weather alerts by visiting, and then clicking on the “SAF-T-Net” logo on the left side of the webpage.