Berrien County implementing new emergency alert system through cell phones

NOW: Berrien County implementing new emergency alert system through cell phones

BRIDGMAN, Mich. -- Berrien County is changing its entire emergency alert system, switching from the old siren system to it all coming through your cell phone and residents will receive their first alert Friday.

The annual calendar released by Cook Nuclear Plant features beautiful photos that residents submit to represent each month, but the most important part is at the back, with safety protocols for emergency events – and this year, laying out the county’s new alert system.

From weather events, to chemical spills or nuclear accidents, the next time there’s an emergency in Berrien County, you’ll want to look to your phone.

“IPAWS [FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System] will be our all-hazards warning system,” said Kevin Simpson, Emergency Preparedness Manager at D.C. Cook Nuclear Plant. “It could be for a tornado, or a nuclear event like we could have here at Cook.”

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Cook Nuclear Plant partnered to eliminate the use of old-school sirens to alert the public county-wide because over time, a variety of factors have shown they’re not nearly as effective.

“The buildings that we have are being built with better insulation so the siren doesn’t always reach indoors, where IPAWS can reach you if you’re inside or outside,” said Simpson.

So what do you need to do to make sure you’ve opted in to emergency alerts on your cell phone?

“It’s located within the settings of any Android or iPhone," said Simpson. "If you opt-out of the Amber Alert, you’re opting out of all alerts on your cell phone, so we would recommend you re-enable those."

And where a typical siren would just go off, with no context as to what it’s for, the alerts to your phone will give clear directions.

“When it comes to wireless emergency alerts, not only does your phone alert you, but it gives you the exact message we want to get to you,” said Simpson.

There will be a test alert Friday at 3 p.m. on cell phones of Berrien County residents. Additional tests will then be held on the first Friday of each month.

More information on the new system, plus other emergency planning tips, can be found inside the 2021 Cook Emergency Information Calendar.

Berrien County will also test its B-WARN! system Friday at the same time – which residents can use to sign up for alerts via SMS, phone or email.

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