August 31, 2013 3:23:44 PM
PEARL -- Mississippi officials are encouraging residents to download smartphone applications that will provide emergency information, as well as to familiarize themselves with an automatic alert system contained on newer wireless telephones.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has launched free applications for iPhone and Android. The apps include emergency information, a checklist for an emergency kit, highway information, and weather radar. It will also include links to a list of evacuation shelters.
"We're really excited about this," MEMA Director Robert Latham said at a Wednesday news conference at MEMA headquarters. "It puts all of your tools in one place."
Officials also said Mississippians should know they may receive emergency messages from the separate Wireless Emergency Alert program. It sends text messages, in some cases accompanied by a high-pitched tone, when there is an imminent weather danger, a missing child, or other problem. Messages are supposed to be targeted to all phones in an affected area, whether the phone's owner lives there or not.
Cell phone owners can contact their wireless provider to see if their phone will receive alerts.
Latham urged people not to turn the alerts off.
"Just don't opt out, because if you opt out of this, you won't have the information you need in an emergency," he said.
County emergency managers are also being certified to use the wireless alert system in their counties, with Hancock and Lauderdale counties already certified.