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      "Call 'em all" alerts going out to southern Tri-State communities

      Tri-State residents in some of our southern communities might be getting an automated phone call from emergency officials in the coming months.

      It's part of the "call 'em all" alert system that being put in place in Pittsfield, Illinois and Marion County, Missouri. This new system will provide as a backup to the rest.

      You've heard that sound before, the jarring sound of a weather siren, alerting you of what mother nature's about to send down. But that siren will only warn you of certain emergencies, throwing others to the wind.

      "One of the aldermen had suggested that we have some sort of an alert program for resident during emergencies," said Bill McCartney, Pittsfield's economic development director.

      Instead of personally calling residents affected and alerting the media, the city of Pittsfield will soon be able to record a message that gets sent out to everyone involved.

      "It's pretty simple. You just have a list of numbers," said McCartney.

      That comes down to 2,175 home phone numbers, even more if residents opt to give out their cell phone numbers.

      "Within an hour, everybody's called. It's amazing," said McCartney.

      The all-call alert system will be beneficial to small and big emergencies.

      "If there's a water main break or gas leak, we won't have to alert the entire city. We can just do the smaller groups," said McCartney.

      "It will alleviate a lot of phone calls, because people call when they don't have any water, when it gets shut off to fix it," said Kim Flesner, the deputy city clerk of Pittsfield. "Our guys have not been able to call all those people at this point, so they're wondering what's going on."

      "I remember a couple of years ago, a bad wind storm, trees down, and that could've been a call saying, 'crews will be out soon.'" said McCartney.

      Across the river, this all-call alert system would have been yet another backup for Hannibal residents during the flash floods of 2010 and the Blizzard of 2011. In 2012, it will become a reality.

      "We're doing everything we can at the city and county level to help people prepare for tornadoes, blizzards and floods," said John Hark, Marion County emergency management director.

      The phone system could also be used for Amber Alerts, walkaways from nursing homes and boil orders throughout the county.

      "Everybody is in that has a landline. They can opt out. People with cell phones can opt in," said Hark. "anything that's in the 911 database will ring. How quick will we get it out? That's still yet to be seen."

      Hark says he hasn't heard much feedback back from the community yet, but knows the day will come.

      "When we call somebody at 3 o'clock in the morning, we'll here about it then," said Hark.

      The city of Pittsfield's alert system is expected to be up and running within a month or so, taking about $700 from the economic development fund. Marion County's system, at the earliest, is expected to start up by April 1, costing the county about 13 thousand dollars a year.