Mississippi needs a better system to alert people of danger

A mosquito carrying the West Nile virus has infected someone in Pearl River County. It’s the second case reported in Mississippi in 2018.
A mosquito carrying the West Nile virus has infected someone in Pearl River County. It’s the second case reported in Mississippi in 2018. Dreamstime/TNS file

We appreciate everything the State Department of Health and mosquito control agencies do to try to keep us safe.

The health department, in particular, touches many facets of our lives. It watches over our drinking water and the restaurants we enjoy, warns us about threats to our health, gathers statistics to help guide public policy and offers advice to those dealing with health issues. We don’t thank them enough.

Mosquito control agencies do a remarkable job of keeping mosquitoes at bay in a hot, humid environment perfect for breeding mosquitoes. We appreciate their dedication.

We just want to help them do their jobs even more efficiently and effectively. We help them spread the word when diseases such as West Nile pop up. We advocate for health care funding and prevention programs. We think of them as partners.

When Harrison County Mosquito Control people went door to door to warn people in a section of D’Iberville that mosquitoes in the area were infected with the West Nile virus, we told that story to help spread the word.

But it also had us thinking, is that the best and most efficient way to issue a warning? Surely not, was the answer we came up with.

And that led us to wonder about all the warnings we get and the myriad ways they are spread.

What if there was a system that any agency could use. One that could let us know rough weather is on the way, that we should boil our water, or be on the lookout for an escapee or bank robbery suspect.

One that could advise us to evacuate before the rivers leave their banks, to take precautions against dangerous mosquitoes, or avoid the area of a hazardous material spill or leak.

And one that would distinguish between a minor inconvenience and a life-threatening disaster.

Such a system exists. The Department of Homeland Security has the Emergency Alert System, which offers a wide array of means of getting a message out. And it’s not just for the federal government.

According to Ready.Gov:

“EAS may also be used by state and local authorities, in cooperation with the broadcast community, to deliver important emergency information, such as weather information, imminent threats, Amber Alerts, and local incident information targeted to specific areas.”

We hope all our agencies and governments are aware of or will be getting acquainted with that site and all the technology that is out there to help them get the job done quickly and efficiently.

There’s nothing wrong with using a little shoe leather, and it sometimes will be the only way, but thanks to technology, it’s not the quickest way to get the word out.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

Protect yourself

How to avoid being bitten by disease-bearing insects

▪ Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors.

▪ Use EPA-approved mosquito repellent.

▪ Empty standing water.

▪ Discard old tires and rubbish where standing water can collect.

▪ Install screens on any open doors or windows.