Digital billboards used for emergency alerts

Texas introduced a new emergency-alert system Monday in four different counties.

Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Texas introduced a new emergency-alert system Monday in four different counties. Instead of using large highway billboards solely for advertising purposes, the state has started to explore more functional and high-tech ways to use them. The new billboards will display ads when circumstances are safe and normal, but in the case of hurricanes and any other threats and hazards the digital billboards will provide a way for county officials to communicate with commuters.

In the case of an emergency, a management office will transmit via satellite a clear and easily identifiable message to the LED-equipped billboards. The message will be displayed with special art work, helping people who speed by recognize when there is an emergency alert. The entire Gulf Coast Emergency Communications Network consists of eleven different billboards across the four counties, with four more planned for installation this month. But if the crisis is region-specific, operators can choose to send the message to only some of the billboards.

For motorists, this type of notification is safer and more reliable than phone alerts. Clear Channel, the media company partnering with the state on this project, has considered using generators to allow the billboards to operate even if power is out. On Monday, officials ran a test message to familiarize the public with the system and ensure that it would work in an emergency.

[via GovTech]

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