State help not required to send emergency text alerts for Shelby County

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- The Memphis City Council never wants what happened nearly 400 miles away in Gatlinburg to go down in Shelby County.

Councilman Worth Morgan said, "The first thing you think -- what happens if this you know occurs in Memphis?"

Morgan was not talking about the actual wildfires, but instead how authorities in Gatlinburg failed to send text alerts telling people to evacuate.

"This is one of the basic services that the government provides, and it goes into public safety," Morgan told WREG.

Sevier County officials said "disabled phone, internet, and electrical services" interrupted communication with the state and "the emergency notification was not delivered as planned."

"Oh, my heart broke for them," Dale Lane expressed.

Lane, who is the head of the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, could not comment on what went wrong in Gatlinburg, but said his office has redundant systems in place for if technology fails.

"If our phone contact went down, we have satellite capability with the state as well," Lane told WREG.

Unlike Sevier County, Shelby County's emergency operations center can send text alerts without the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency's help.

Local officials requested to have access to the system known as IPAWS.

"It's an approval process that you have to go through, your staff has to be trained to operate the system," Lane explained. "So, I can't speak for why others don't have it, but we do have the capability here and it's not uncommon."

Shelby County still needs help from the state for television and radio alerts.

"If there's a larger concern, that is something that we can bring back again on a council Tuesday," Morgan said.