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Homeland Security grant aids in emergency notification
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Like clockwork, Dawson County’s eight severe weather sirens sound promptly at 11:30 a.m. every Wednesday morning to verify the notification system will be operational in the event a true emergency arises.


Scattered in the most heavily populated areas of the county, the sirens were installed over the last seven or eight years to warn and protect citizens of impending danger associated with sudden and severe weather threats.


“Each siren was used at least two times in emergency situations last year,” said Billy Thurmond, director of Dawson County’s Emergency Management Agency.


Last week, Thurmond received a different type of notification — one that announced the department had received more than $10,000 in grants from the Georgia Office of Homeland Security to enhance the county’s current warning system.


The funding, which requires the county to match the grant, will enable Dawson County to purchase and install sirens in two areas of the county that are currently without the warning devices.


“We already had the money for the first siren in our EMA budget for 2009. This will allow us to place sirens at two of our most frequently visited areas in the county,” Thurmond said.


One siren will be placed at Amicalola Falls State Park. The other will be positioned near the intersection of Dawson Forest and Lumpkin Campground roads and “should be heard from all over the outlet mall, to Wal-Mart, Home Depot and about a mile along the Ga. 400 corridor,” Thurmond said.


“We get about a million tourists to the state park and between 7 and 8 million shoppers to the outlet mall each year. With this grant money, we’re able to put sirens at two of our busiest areas,” he said.


Thurmond said the department’s long-term goal is to have enough severe weather sirens that every resident would hear the warnings “no matter where you live.”


One day after receiving the weather siren grant, Dawson County EMA was awarded an additional $12,500 for its Community Emergency Response Team from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.


Awarded through the office of Gov. Sonny Perdue, the grant will enable the county to purchase additional equipment and resources the CERT Team currently needs but does not have available, said CERT Director Richard Sims.


“This grant gives us the opportunity to get some additional equipment and takes us to a new level and new capabilities in the county,” he said, adding the team plans to purchase GPS units, fire extinguishers, flashlights and a tent they will use in search and rescue, as well as other items.


Thurmond said the CERT Team, a group of 85 volunteers aged 25-80, are an important component to the county emergency management team. “I’m real proud of all of them. This money will help them get what they need to help us help our citizens,” he said.


E-mail Michele Hester at