ATLANTA, Ga. -- A federal grant will help provide storm alert radios to schools, day care centers, hospitals, 911 facilities, governmental offices and other vital Georgia agencies to ensure advance warning of approaching severe weather.
"Our goal is to protect lives that might lie in harm's way," said John B. Copenhaver, regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is funding $300,000 of the initial cost, or 48.9 percent of the total. The state will provide the remaining 51.1 percent share, he added.
"The scope of this project is statewide because tornadoes aren't seasonal or sectional events, and because Georgia is more than 300 miles in length and nearly 250 miles in width," Copenhaver explained.
When all phases of the project are completed, Copenhaver said, the final cost is expected to be nearly $2.2 million, of which FEMA would provide about $1.6 million.
Copenhaver cited the loss of more than a hundred lives to tornadoes during a deadly three-month span in Georgia and neighboring southeastern states as recently as 1998. As a result of that storm-bred carnage, FEMA and the state immediately mounted a joint effort to create a severe storm research center at Georgia Tech.
The storm alert radios will tie in directly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Services, FEMA, and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA).
Copenhaver stressed "the urgency of time" in distributing the radios to emergency managers. In the last half-century, only Glascock and Taliaferro of Georgia's 159 counties have escaped tornado strikes. Eight others-Bartow, Cobb, Fulton, Hall, Worth, Colquitt, Decatur and Chatham--have been hit at least 18 times during the same period.