• Jim Matalone on Ashby St’s Tornado Warning System

    Digital billboards provide a big assist to government agencies that need to communicate quickly in public emergencies.  Insider talked with Ashby Street Outdoor’s Jim Matalone about the company’s tornado warning system.

    Jim Matalone, CEO, Ashby Street Outdoor

    Jim, where did the idea for a tornado warning system come from?

    This was something that bothered me for sometime.  Everytime we would get tornado warnings, which we get quite a few, it bothered me that we did not have the capability to send out a public warning to travelers through our digital network.  As we all know, drivers are less exposed to local radio than ever and can not (or should not) be looking at their phones.  As a result they may not be aware of a tornado warning for their area while they are driving in their vehicle.  I knew it was a needed benefit that our current technology could provide.   We just needed to find a way to implement it.   As always, John James of Apparatix was up to the challenge.

    How does the system work?

    When a tornado warning is issued from the National Weather Service, if one of our 61 digital billboards is in the affected area, the Tornado Warning message displays until the warning has expired.

    I hear you used the system this week.

    We went live with the system about a week ago.  Yesterday we had several waves of bad weather move through our northwest Arkansas market including a number of tornado warnings.  Luckily no tornadoes touched down in our immediate area.   However, we were able to verify that the new warning system functioned flawlessly sending out automatic warnings to every one of our digital faces that was in the warning areas.  I believe this is a potentially life-saving benefit we now offer our communities and something our company is very proud of.  To my knowledge, we are the first and only outdoor company that currently has this capability.  I am sure all outdoor companies should and will follow our lead on this.
    Your tornado warning system highlights how digital billboards can help public agencies communicate with the public during a crisis.
    Last year we had reached an agreement with the City of Bentonville to expand our digital network there (you ran a story on it).  We believe this new warning system is a benefit they welcome. We are already receiving positive emails praising our safety conscience initiative.  Check out the link below to 40/29’s weather man’s facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/4029darbybybee/ 

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    1. Just for clarification, our system is a tornado warning system. It wouldn’t be practical for hurricanes to suspend advertising.