MORRIS – The city of Morris is on its way to becoming a beacon of weather preparedness.
If city officials get their way, every Morris resident will be equipped with a National Weather Service weather alert radio, programmed to broadcast localized severe weather alerts directly from the weather service.
Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick said the city is partnering with Walgreens to subsidize the radios and offer them to Morris residents at a substantially discounted price of $10.
The Midland Weather Alert Radios – sold at several major retailers and recommended by the Department of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness – cost anywhere from $30 to $40 when purchased new.
"Walgreens is excited to participate with us," Morris Fire Marshall Robert Coleman said. "If we put this together, we'll be the first community to partner with Walgreens on a project of this size with the radios."
In the budget for fiscal 2014, the city set aside several thousand dollars to purchase 2,500 radios, which officials hope to have ordered within the next few months, Kopczick said.
To be eligible for a reduced-cost radio, residents must have an address within the corporate city limits of Morris, which excludes some residents who live in Goose Lake and other areas that technically have a Morris address.
Every household will receive no more than one radio at the discounted rate.
"This only for the people who live within the corporate city limits because those other folks do not pay taxes to the city of Morris. This program is only for our taxpayers," Kopczick said.
If the first batch of radios goes over well and there is a large enough demand, the city will purchase more in fiscal year 2015. The hope is to distribute the radios to all Morris residents, Kopczick said.
The decision to purchase the radios is a direct result of Morris's long-term, natural disaster mitigation plan enacted last year.
The city was required to complete the plan in order to retain eligibility for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. Ensuring that every household had a NWS-certified radio was included in that mitigation plan.
"[FEMA] wants to see what you're city is doing to protect property," Kopczick said. "Instead of spending their resources to come clean up after a major disaster, they want to see how you've prepared."
The project was made a priority last fall when the tornado struck Diamond and Coal City.
"That hit really close to home," Kopczick said. "When the tornado hit, it was like, 'Wow, that happened really fast.' So we decided to move forward with the radio program."
The radios are designed to pick up local broadcast signals from the local National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration station and will alert residents to all manner of severe weather.
"It's not only for tornadoes," Coleman said. "Blizzards, wind storms, floods – it covers most weather events."