The Indiana state Homeland Security Department has told officials in Vermillion County to stop using their official Homeland Security Department Electronic Emergency Message Boards to advertise the local volunteer fire department's charity fish fry.
The 11 message boards, which the state department supplied at a cost of $300,000, were intended for various danger-related purposes such as telling people about evacuation routes in the event of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack on the Newport Chemical Depot. Instead, local officials have used them to advertise the fish fry, a spaghetti dinner fundraiser and an elementary school carnival. The director of the county's emergency management department said each of the groups reported larger-than-normal turnouts after the message boards were used, so it's good to know the things work.
County commissioners said they should be able to run the county however they like, but Homeland Security officials said that using the signs for other purposes is a violation of federal rules that could deprive the county of federal money, and that it could "dull the public's attentiveness to the boards." That makes sense -- if you're used to seeing ads for the fish fry, you will probably just ignore something like "TERRORIST ATTACK ON CHEMICAL DEPOT RELEASES DEADLY PLUME OF POISON -- FLEE IMMEDIATELY." Otherwise, people will be riveted to these things just like they now wake up and check the color-coded "Threat Level" every morning before deciding how much armor to wear that day.
Faced with the loss of federal funds, the county has stopped using the signs for the announcements and commissioners will discuss the matter next week.
Link: AP via MyWay News