October 31, 2014

State unveils new emergency messaging system (Audio)

Alert-Iowa-logoThe Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management rolled out a new statewide electronic notification and emergency messaging system today at the department’s annual conference in Des Moines.

Audio:  Radio Iowa’s Dar Danielson reports  :68

State Homeland Security Department director, Mark Schouten, says the new “Iowa Alert System” was developed after the state learned 53 counties were paying for a system, 31 had no system, and 15 others were using a free system.

Governor Terry Branstad joined Schouten to send out the first message to the county emergency management directors in the audience and their cellphones immediately started beeping. Schouten says the system was developed by the federal Homeland Security agency and is known as the Integrated Public Alert And Warning System or IPAAWS.

County officials will be able to send out localized alerts and Schouten says the state will also be able to send state alerts that will be accompanied by a warning buzzer if there is an “imminent threat.” “It’s loud, it is obnoxious. I think it is made that way to get your attention,” Schouten says of the warning signal.

HSEMD director, Mark Schouten.

HSEMD director, Mark Schouten.

The Iowa Legislature and Governor Branstand approved $400,000 to get the system going. “As I’e seen this system developed, it is confirmed that it will be a vital mechanism for local governments to provide safety and other important information to your residents,” Branstad says. Schouten says 34 counties have signed up for the system, and he says they hope to eventually have all 99 signed up for the new system with the state is providing for free.

“I think that’s one of the attractions of the system, we hope to get all the counties on the same messaging system, it’ll be free to the counties, free to the cities, free to the schools within that county,” Schouten says. “They’ll all be allowed to use it on a subscription base. The county coordinators will be able to send out those FEMA wireless emergency alerts.”

The system allows users to be very specific in sending out messages. Schouten cited the example of how one county coordinator used it already to find a man who had some mental health issues. “He left without permission from a hospital and they wanted to take him back into custody,” Schouten explains. “So they drew a circle on a map and messaged the people just within that circle, and within minutes, two or three people called up law enforcement and said ‘here he is he’s walking down our street.'”

Schouten says it’s an investment that helps all Iowans. “I think it’s such an effective tool that we are compelled to do it. I think it will end up saving lives,” according to Schouten. “There are just so many events in Iowa that we have not a lot of notice, but some notice. And if we can give that notice to the people who are affected by those disasters, then they are better able to take steps to preserve their own safety.”

Schouten says some counties still have contracts with the providers of their current service and they expect them to sign up with the new system once those contracts expire. He says the cost of the system should come down to around $300,000 a year once all counties are signed up.

The counties now signed up to use the system are: Black Hawk, Winnesheik, Jackson, Clinton, Scott, Cedar, Linn, Iowa, Johnson, Washington, Louisa, Henry, Marion, Warren, Clarke, Ringgold, Decatur, Wayne, Worth, Mitchell, Floyd, Humboldt, Webster, Clay, Buena Vista, Sac, Carroll, Gutherie, Adair, Cass, Pottawattamie, Harrison, Shelby, Woodbury.


Shelby County man dies in ATV accident

A 79-year-old southwest Iowa man has died in an ATV accident. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said Charles Mumm, of Earling, died at the scene of the crash near Earling at 2222 Dogwood Road.

The accident happened at around 5:30 P.M. Monday. Mumm was found in a field near the residence, with the ATV nearby. An investigation determined he lost control of the machine in the field due to large washout ruts and possibly mechanical failure.

(Reporting by Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)


Mason City man dies in accident near Plainfield

A tanker truck driver was killed when his rig collided with a car in northeast Iowa. The Bremer County Sheriff’s Department says 37-year-old James Ruehlow of Mason City died on Thursday after an accident two-and-a-half miles east of Plainfield at the intersection of a county road and State Highway 188.

His truck collided with a car driven by 16-year-old Nicole Manross of Waverly, rolling the truck and sending it into a ditch. Manross was not injured in the accident. The highway was closed for 4 hours after the accident as authorities had to clean up diesel fuel that had spilled from the truck into the ditch.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)


Authorities looking for hit-and-run driver who struck tractor, splitting it in half

A deputy looks for clues in the hit-and-run involving this tractor.

A deputy looks for clues in the hit-and-run involving this tractor.

Authorities say the driver of some sort of red vehicle fled the scene after smashing into the back of a small tractor early Wednesday morning near Le Mars.

Plymouth County authorities are looking for a red vehicle with what they believe may have substantial damage to the right front. The 1940’s era Farmall tractor was going northbound on a county road when it was struck from behind and split in half.

Seventy-six-year-old Mark Schroeder of rural Le Mars was driving the tractor. He was found lying on the road, next to the tractor, and treated at the scene for a head injury. Schroeder was taken to a local hospital, but authorities say his injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

Anyone with information about the accident is urged to call the Plymouth County Sheriff.

(Reporting and photo by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)

West African leaders discuss Ebola at World Food Prize event

World Food Prize baners hanging at the State Capitol.

Leaders of a pair of West African countries, visiting Iowa for the World Food Prize events, say the Ebola crisis has not only taken thousands of lives, it’s also threatening to destroy their economies. Florence Chenoweth is the Minister of Agriculture in Liberia. She says most people in West Africa were not aware of the virus in the first critical months of the outbreak and many refused treatment.

“People are just now beginning to understand that (Ebola) is real and it kills,” Chenoweth said. Around 4,000 people have died in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the countries hardest hit by the disease. Joseph Sam Sesay is the Minister of Agriculture in Sierra Leone, which boasted one of the three fastest growing economies in the world before the Ebola crisis.

“Today, instead of a projected 11.3 percent annual economic growth rate for 2014, we later deflated that to 7 and today, we’re only anticipating something like three-percent,” Sesay said. Around two-thirds of the people in Sierra Leone are farmers with small operations and most are very poor.

The Ebola outbreak has exacerbated their struggles, according to Sesay, as neighboring countries are closing their borders and suspending trade. “Isolating the countries Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone has a more devastating effect,” Sesay said. “We are talking about the movement of goods and people, some of these are humanitarian.”

At a World Food Prize news conference in Des Moines Wednesday, Sesay made a direct appeal for U.S. agencies to further help his country. “The best, for me, is to fight the war where the war is and not to wait until it comes here,” Sesay said. “Please, we are appealing to you to really support us so we can stop this.”

Agencies in the U.S. have committed more than $400 million to efforts to fight Ebola and the U.S. Department of Defense is expected to provide another $1 billion in assistance. In recent weeks, an Iowa-based relief agency has sent 600,000 prepackaged meals to Liberia. Outreach Incorporated has a goal of providing one million meals to the country by the end of the year.


Atlantic man dies after accident on Highway 83

Authorities say an autopsy will be performed to determine why a southwestern Iowa man died after an accident in Pottawattamie County. Sixty-year old Garry Johnk, of Atlantic, was traveling westbound on Highway 83 near Avoca at around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

As his truck passed by an Iowa Department of Transportation road crew, it nearly hit them before veering off the road and coming to rest in a harvested corn field. The crew noticed Johnk was slumped over and leaning toward the driver’s side door just before the accident occurred.

Despite efforts by the crew to resuscitate Johnk, he later died at the hospital in Harlan. The man’s truck sustained very little damage. The accident remains under investigation.

(Reporting by Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)


Libertarian candidate for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat dies in plane crash

Doug Butzier

Doug Butzier

The pilot who died in a plane crash near Dubuque late last night was the Libertarian candidate for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat.

The family of Douglas Butzier has confirmed Butzier was piloting the plane that crashed near the Dubuque Regional Airport at about 11 p.m. Monday. No one else was in the plane.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the single-engine plane took off from the Ankeny Regional Airport at about 10 p.m. and crashed at about 11 p.m., about a mile north of the runway in Dubuque.

Butzier, who was an ER doctor, was born in Mount Pleasant and grew up in Cedar Falls. Butzier, who was 59 years old, has been working at Dubuque Mercy Hospital for the past 17 years.

Written statements of condolence were issued by other candidates in the U.S. Senate race.

Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst issued the following statement after the wife of Libertarian Senate candidate Dr. Doug Butzier confirmed to local media that he died in a plane crash on Monday night:
“I am deeply saddened to learn the tragic news about Dr. Doug Butzier. I appreciated Doug’s willingness to contribute to this important election. In addition to representing Libertarians in this campaign, Doug served his community as an ER doctor and medical leader. Gail and I will keep Doug’s family in our thoughts and prayers as they mourn their untimely loss.”

Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley released the following statement following news of the death of U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Doug Butzier:

“I’m shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden and tragic death of Doug Butzier. I have enormous respect for anyone who puts their name forward as a candidate for public office. Carolyn and I send our thoughts and prayers to Dr. Butzier’s wife and family during this difficult time.”

Independent US Senate candidate Rick Stewart expressed his grief at the tragic death of Doug Butzier, Libertarian Party candidate for US Senate:

“Over the last few months Doug and I collaborated closely in our attempts to have our voices heard by Iowa voters. My deepest sympathy goes out to his wife, family, friends and patients. Doug was a strong voice in Iowa for liberty and freedom and he will be greatly missed.”