May 2, 2005
VERO BEACH, Fla. - Emergency managers in Indian River County, hard-hit by hurricanes last year, thought the best way to get out weather alerts was by e-mail - until they learned that AOL was tagging the messages as spam.
"Because we send out mail in large numbers, it becomes a pattern for spam senders," said Basil Dancy, a county computer software engineer.
The problem started last year with frequent alerts during an unusually busy hurricane season when four major storms hit Florida, including two - Frances and Jeanne - that swept over Indian River County with winds above 100 mph.
About 4,200 people signed up for the county's e-mail alert service, offering quick alerts on hurricanes, tornadoes and other weather emergenciess.
"In the 16 years I've been in this office, it is the No. 1 thing that best informs the public," said Nathan McCollum, the county's emergency management coordinator.
But not everyone was receiving the alerts. "We know it's going out but, in the heat of the moment, it's not a reliable system," McCollum said.
The county is working with AOL to fix the problem. In the meantime, AOL users are being told to put the county's e-mail account in their computer's address book so their computers know to accept the messages.