GREENFIELD — Winter is fast approaching, and Hancock County Emergency Management is renewing its efforts to distribute hazard alert radios to area residents.
The radios, which are being given away on a first-come, first-served basis, are available through a partnership with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which provided 8,500 radios to agencies throughout the state.
Hancock County received about 90 of those radios, and about half of them have been distributed to local fire departments, including the Greenfield Fire Department and Sugar Creek Township Fire Department, for residents to pick up.
Radios are also available by contacting emergency management directly.
The radios utilize more than 60 types of alerts, including hazardous weather, local emergency information and broadcasts from the National Weather Service. They have backup battery power should a home’s electricity fail.
The weather radios serve as an early-warning tool and are especially important to at-risk Hoosiers who might not have other means of being notified of impending dangerous weather conditions, said Greenfield Fire Chief James Roberts.
Greenfield Fire Department, 17 W. South St., has about a dozen radios left for pick-up.
Roberts hopes families that might not otherwise have the means to purchase a radio, which retails for about $40, will take advantage of the program that offers them for free.
“They’re not doing any good sitting in here,” Roberts said Wednesday at the fire station. “This is something that gives them a real advanced warning, even in comparison to our sirens.”
Homeland Security frequently partners with emergency management agencies to offer the radios purchased with federal grant dollars. Over the past four years, Homeland Security has distributed more than 23,000 radios to residents in the state. Economically disadvantaged Hoosiers and residents of mobile homes are usually targeted to receive the radios.
“Mobile homes and similar structures offer only minimal protection against severe weather and other life-threatening natural and man-made disasters, so frequently the best course of action is evacuation to a stronger, safer building such as a community center or other public facility,” a Homeland Security press release states.
There are no local restrictions on who may pick up a radio at no charge.
The radios may be programmed to set off tones for certain alerts or geographical areas only, said Jeff Vanderwal, deputy director of Emergency Management.
The devices save residents time in the event of an emergency because the broadcasts come directly from the National Weather Service, he added.
“The weather radios are the best form of communications,” he said. “There is no middle man. It’s a lot quicker. It’s a lot more accurate.”