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'We're prioritizing people's lives': Flagstaff emergency alert system aims to protect people, property from flooding

The alert system uses forecasts based on previous burn scars and rainfall to alert residents of flooding.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Monsoon 2022 is underway and people throughout Arizona are preparing for potential flooding that could follow.

The City of Flagstaff is making that preparation a bit easier by way of a new alert system that can warn residents that flooding is forecasted based on previous burn scars and rainfall.

"These sensors go off at a certain level, in particular, if we receive three-quarters of an inch of rain in 15 minutes. Then, the sirens are directly tied to our emergency notification systems," Mayor Paul Deasy said.

While the alert may not be able to protect everyone's property, it can help protect people's lives.

The loud and clear sirens can signal residents of flash flooding that could be coming, rushing down from burn scars, Mayor Deasy said. 

That 15-minute warning could mean the difference between danger and safety.

"The flooding from the Schultz fire about 11 years ago and one child lost their lives trying to save their sibling from the flooding. We never want that to happen again and here in Flagstaff we want to take every measure possible to protect the community," he said.

In hopes of avoiding such tragedies, the city, county and Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management came together to find a way to keep everyone safe.

"We're prioritizing people's lives and ensuring that our community is safe from tragic experiences that unfortunately happened in the past," Deasy said. "It's an important emergency alert system we didn't have previously but with changing times it’s important that we're protecting and notifying people."

The new emergency system has a broader reach than the existing one, from children playing outside to those in certain areas with no Wi-Fi or cell phone service.

It's important to note, that even when the siren winds down, that does not mean the threat is over.

The city will test the emergency alert system on Friday to ensure it is up and running. 

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