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Greeley, the town

Local news is welcome.
Submitted by Shirley Gillispie Moore

 

Marty Callahan, Inventor

This is from the Lincoln Journal Star, January 14, 2003.

Invention from Greeley helps Israelis

The Associated Press GREELEY -- From tornadoes to terrorism, Marty Callahan is making the world safer one home at a time.

Callahan came up with the idea for an emergency warning system that broadcasts messages directly into people's homes after he was at St. Francis Hospital in Grand Island with his pregnant wife, Laurie, to visit his mother, Delores, when multiple tornadoes hit in 1980.

As first reported in the Omaha World-Herald, the device is now being used to protect small villages in Israel from terrorism.

The hospital received an early warning of the tornadoes, which interested Callahan, who had been looking for a better warning system.

``I wondered why they could get the information out so quickly,'' he said.

He learned the National Weather Service had called the hospital and began searching for a way to do that in homes. He came up with the design for the SAM Emergency Alerting System, which stands for Safety Alert Monitor.

SAM is delivered by cable television systems, but does not require a television to be on in the home. A stand-alone receiver is driven by a multiple-input processor at the cable company's transmitter, Callahan said.

The processor monitors pertinent information, compares security codes and sends the information to the boxes that people can purchase for about $40 or rent from a cable company, Callahan said.

The warning system turns on the box and also allows officials to broadcast information directly into homes, he said.

``They put their voice through the receiver and it tells people what to do,'' Callahan said.

The idea in designing SAM was to keep it simple.

``It's not high-tech. There's no programming,'' Callahan said.

While the system has been available in Greeley since 1987, Callahan's company, HollyAnne Corp., named after daughters Katie Anne, Jessica Holly and Holly Anne, is just beginning to seriously market the product.

That's because the federal government contacted him in the early 1990s to come to meetings in Washington, D.C., to help develop a new emergency alert system for the United States, he said.

The Emergency Alert System that provides the familiar beeps over radio and television signals was part of Callahan's earlier invention, he said.

The 46-year-old Callahan, who owns the Greeley Citizen newspaper with Laurie and operates the town's cable system, said SAM has an advantage over that system because the receiver doesn't have to be turned on to broadcast the warning.

In the world after Sept. 11, the system is finding new uses.

It's now being used to provide security information to small villages in the occupied territories of Israel, Callahan said. There, it can provide warnings or squelch rumors.

Israeli officials discovered the devices at a cable television convention in California last year, he said. The Ministry of Defense conducted its first tests on the system last year and in October decided it was the one to use.

The system already is being used in one Israeli village, with shipments moving out to another 2,000 homes in seven more villages, he said.

That has brought home the importance of what they are doing to his 10-year-old son, Ben, Callahan said.

Ben asked if a story on CNN that showed children in Israel learning how to put on their gas masks was how their boxes were used.

``I said `That's exactly how they use our boxes,''' Callahan said.

In addition to Greeley, the system is now used in Imperial, Grant, North Bend, Scribner, Snyder, Petersburg, Elgin, Neligh and Oakdale, Callahan said. Ten counties in Kansas also are using it, plus some locations in Arkansas, Florida and a research center in Batavia, Ill.

SAM was designed in Greeley and is made in Indonesia through an agreement with RCA, Callahan said.

It was financed by a group of Omaha investors and Great Plains Communications of Blair, which also provided technical assistance.


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Last revised: 22 Jan 2003