For Lawrence County residents who want local weather alerts, school closings, county road conditions, or alerts from the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office sent right to their phone, there’s now an app for that.  

The Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency announced the launch of Lawrence County’s Public Safety app this week, which also includes a tab used exclusively for updates and features for the Sheriff’s Office.

The county’s EMA app, which was first envisioned by Lawrence County’s former EMA director, the late Johnny Cantrell, is free to download for Apple and Android users.

In a quest to find more ways to alert county residents of weather threats in their areas quickly and efficiently, Cantrell began discussions with an EMA mobile app developer, OCV, LLC, and county commissioners about building an app tin January.

Though Cantrell died unexpectedly on May 1, before the app was finalized, his vision and dedication to county safety was an integral part of the program’s completion.

In the early stages of the app’s development, Cantrell told commissioners the app would extend the EMA’s efforts in alerting residents of weather threats to more citizens by supplementing weather sirens already in place throughout the county.  

“When we’re looking at sirens—that’s 1930s technology,” he told the commission in January. “94 percent of people up to 50 years old use a smart phone, and we can reach more people with the app. We probably only effectively reach about 30 percent of the county with the sirens.”

Though its primary function is to alert app users to severe weather threats moving into their area, the app also includes features specific to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.

Those who download the app will be able to access up-to-date jail, inmate and sex offender information, and be able to submit anonymous crime tips directly to the sheriff’s department.  

The app also allows users to connect with other public safety officials, provides county storm shelter locations as well as evacuation routes during natural disasters, and will send users push notifications for news and updates, which users can customize according to their own preferences.

In a regular commission meeting last January, commissioner approved the plan for the new app, which cost $11,831 for initial setup.  County Administrator Heather Dyar said the commission received $7,500 in community development grants to put towards the initial cost.

OVC Communication Strategist Jay Baxter told the commission maintenance and support for the app would cost about $6,846 annually after year one for as long as the app is active. 

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