GDOT Pleads for Safe Back to School Driving in Northwest Georgia 

Safe Driving for Back-to-School Season…
GDOT Pleads for Safe Back to School Driving in Northwest Georgia 

WHITE, Ga. – Students heading back to school means more traffic, increased congestion and the need for extra safety precautions. From school buses loading and unloading, to kids walking and biking, to parents dropping off and picking up – dangers abound.

As back-to-school gets into full swing, Georgia DOT urges drivers to put safety first – especially in and around school zones, buses and children.

  • Pay attention to school zone flashing beacons and obey school zone speed limits.
  • Obey school bus laws.
    • Stop behind/do not pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
    • If the lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, opposing traffic must stop unless it is on a divided highway with a grass or concrete median.
  • Watch for students gathering near bus stops, and for kids arriving late, who may dart into the street. Children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.

According to the National Safety Council, most children who lose their lives in school bus-related incidents are four to seven years old, walking and they are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus.

“It’s never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present – especially in the peak traffic hours before and after school,” said Grant Waldrop, district engineer at the DOT office in White.

Research by the National Safe Routes to School program found that more children are hit by cars near schools than at any location. Georgia DOT implores drivers to watch out for children walking or bicycling (both on the road and the sidewalk) in area near a school.

“If you’re driving behind a school bus, increase your following distance to allow more time to stop once the lights start to flash. The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to give them space to safely enter and exit the bus,” Waldrop explained.

Whenever you drive – be alert and expect the unexpected. By exercising a little extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in and around school zones. Let’s make this new school year safer for our children. 

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Safe and Healthy Summer Fun!

Announcements, Community

Outdoor Grill Safety

Community, Outdoors

Press Release

Outdoor Grill Safety

Grilling during the summer time is a fun and exciting activity, but we should not forget about fire safetyAgent Kevin Panter of Kevin Panter Insurance, Inc. is teaming up with the Georgia Arson Control Board to urge the citizens of Fannin County to take proper precautions when enjoying outdoor activities such as grilling.

According to Panter, “While grilling can be an enjoyable outdoor activity for families and friends, it is important to make safety a priority.” Panter also offers the following tips for grilling:

  • Keep flammable materials such as leaves and other debris away from the grill. Also, keep the grill a safe distance from your house or car. Don’t leave a grill unattended. Keep children and pets away from cooking areas.
  • Use only lighter fluid specifically made for starting charcoal fires. Don’t use gasoline; it can explode. Don’t add starter fluid of any kind after charcoals are lit.
  • Always light a gas grill with the lid open. After cooking, shut off the tank first, then the burners.
  • Use outdoor grills where they belong — outdoors. Charcoal fires give off carbon monoxide, which can reach toxic levels in an enclosed space.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near. Use baking soda to handle small grease fires. If it’s safe to get near the grill, close it to suffocate the flames.
  • Georgia law states that, “No charcoal or liquefied petroleum gas or liquid-fueled burners shall be kindled or maintained on balconies or within 10 feet of combustible patios on ground floors.” That means no cooking is allowed on apartment balconies. Check with your complex to see if they have a common grilling area for residents that is safely away from the residential area.
  • Always follow the instructions for your grill and check your local fire codes.

The Georgia Arson Control Program, Inc. (GAC) was formed in January of 1979 by property and casualty insurers writing business in Georgia. GAC, with the cooperation of the Commissioner, Georgia Department of Insurance and Safety Fire, and state/local law enforcement agencies, established an ARSON HOTLINE 1-800-282-5804. A reward fund of up to $10,000 was initiated from which monetary rewards are given to individuals who come forward with information that results in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for arson and/or fraud.

Visit us at:

Facebook: @GeorgiaArsonControl

Twitter: @GaArsonControl






SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Do you need hunter education before you head to the woods? You have options! Hunters in need of the Georgia hunter education course can choose to go completely online or attend a classroom course, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

“In 2018, over 14,000 people completed the Georgia hunter education course – either online or in a classroom,” says Jennifer Pittman, statewide hunter education administrator with the Wildlife Resources Division. “I am glad that we can continue to offer both classroom and online options, as it gives students a choice of what works best with their schedules, especially those with time constraints.”

The four available online courses each require a fee (from $9.95 – $24.95) but all are “pass or don’t pay” courses. Fees for these courses are charged by and collected by the independent course developer. The classroom course is free of charge.  

Completion of a hunter education course is required for any person born on or after January 1, 1961, who:

  • purchases a season hunting license in Georgia.
  • is at least 12 years old and hunts without adult supervision.
  • hunts big game (deer, turkey, bear) on a wildlife management area.

The only exceptions include any person who:

  • purchases a short-term hunting license, i.e. anything less than annual duration (as opposed to a season license).
  • is hunting on his or her own land, or that of his or her parents or legal guardians.

For more information, go to or call 770-761-3010.





SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Before you head to the woods this Spring in pursuit of a gobbler or two, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division encourages all hunters to take some time to review important turkey hunting safety tips.

“Firearms safety knowledge is critical to keeping you, and others, safe while in the woods,” advises Jennifer Pittman, statewide hunter education administrator with the Wildlife Resources Division. “In addition to firearms safety tips, hunters should review and practice safety precautions specific to turkey hunting.”

Turkey Hunting Safety Tips:

  • Never wear red, white, blue or black clothing while turkey hunting. Red is the color most hunters look for when distinguishing a gobbler’s head from a hen’s blue-colored head, but at times it may appear white or blue. Male turkey feathers covering most of the body are black in appearance. Camouflage should be used to cover everything, including the hunter’s face, hands and firearm.
  • Select a calling position that provides at least a shoulder-width background, such as the base of a tree. Be sure that at least a 180-degree range is visible.
  • Do not stalk a gobbling turkey. Due to their keen eyesight and hearing, the chances of getting close are slim to none.
  • When using a turkey call, the sound and motion may attract the interest of other hunters. Do not move, wave or make turkey-like sounds to alert another hunter to your presence. Instead, identify yourself in a loud voice.
  • Be careful when carrying a harvested turkey from the woods. Do not allow the wings to hang loosely or the head to be displayed in such a way that another hunter may think it is a live bird. If possible, cover the turkey in a blaze orange garment or other material.
  • Although it’s not required, it is suggested that hunters wear blaze orange when moving between a vehicle and a hunting site. When moving between hunting sites, hunters should wear blaze orange on their upper bodies to facilitate their identification by other hunters.

For more hunting information, visit .





SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Georgia turkey hunters are ready for the season to open on Saturday, Mar. 23. The 2019 turkey hunting season should be a fair season, similar to 2018, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.  

“Reproduction in 2017 was lower than the four-year average, so that could mean a lower than usual supply of 2 year-old gobblers across much of the state in 2019,” explains Emily Rushton, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “However, that lower average comes between two better years, so hopefully other age classes will remain plentiful.”

With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 23 through May 15 – one of the longest seasons in the nation – to harvest their bird(s).  

What should hunters expect this spring? The Ridge and Valley, Piedmont and Lower Coastal Plain should have the best success based on 2017 reproduction information. The Blue Ridge region had a poor 2017 reproductive season, but saw a significant jump in 2018, so there may be a lot of young birds in the woods. The Upper Coastal Plain saw reproduction below their five-year average for the past two years, so numbers in that part of the state may be down.

Cedar Creek and Cedar Creek-Little River WMA Hunters, take note! The 2019 turkey season will run April 6-May 15 on these properties. This is two weeks later than the statewide opening date. This difference is due to ongoing research between the University of Georgia and WRD, who are investigating the timing of hunting pressure and its effects on gobbler behavior and reproductive success. Through this research, biologists and others hope to gain insight to the reasons for an apparent population decline in order to help improve turkey populations and hunter success at Cedar Creek WMA and statewide.

Georgia Game Check: All turkey hunters must report their harvest using Georgia Game Check. Turkeys can be reported on the Outdoors GA app (, which now works whether you have cell service or not, at, or by calling 1-800-366-2661. App users, if you have not used the app since deer season or before, make sure you have the latest version. More information at

Hunters age 16 years or older (including those accompanying youth or others) will need a hunting license and a big game license, unless hunting on their own private land.  Get your license at, at a retail license vendor or by phone at 1-800-366-2661. With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to obtain landowner permission before hunting.


Conservation of the Wild Turkey in Georgia

The restoration of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories.  Currently, the bird population hovers around 300,000 statewide, but as recently as 1973, the wild turkey population was as low as 17,000. Intensive restoration efforts, such as the restocking of wild birds and establishment of biologically sound hunting seasons facilitated the recovery of wild turkeys in every county. This successful effort resulted from cooperative partnerships between private landowners, hunters, conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Wildlife Resources Division.

The Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has donated more than $4,000,000 since 1985 for projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works in partnership with the Wildlife Resources Division and other land management agencies on habitat enhancement, hunter access, wild turkey research and education. The NWTF has a vital initiative called “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt,” focused on habitat management, hunter access and hunter recruitment.

“Hunters should know that each time they purchase a license or equipment used to turkey hunt, such as shotguns, ammunition and others, that they are part of this greater conservation effort for wildlife in Georgia,” said Rushton.  “Through the Wildlife Restoration Program, a portion of the money spent comes back to states and is put back into on-the-ground efforts such as habitat management and species research and management.”

For more hunting information, visit .   


Photos courtesy of Brian Vickery. After watching his older sister have two successful seasons, 7 year-old Luke is able to take his first bird during the special opportunity youth turkey hunting season.

Fannin County awarded excellence in school safety

Community, News, Rebel's Corner
Exemplary Board

Blue Ridge, Ga. – When it comes to school safety, Fannin County continues to excel and was recently acknowledged by local law enforcement and emergency response for their efforts.

“One of the things that I am very very proud with Fannin County, our school system, is the relationships we that have between our government agencies, especially the sheriff’s department and the emergency management services,” Director of Transportation and Safety Benny Long said explaining that all agencies play a vital role in protecting the youth of the community.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Fannin County School System not only met but exceeded state requirements in the area of emergency preparedness.

Faculty of the school system often train alongside these agencies preparing for a number of scenarios and Long acknowledged that there is a comfort in knowing that Fannin County’s emergency personnel is “just a phone call away”.

Looking back on the past year, the Fannin County School System took a number of proactive steps in the process of making its campuses as safe as possible for all who attend.

At the April 12, 2018 Board Of Education (BOE) meeting the board introduced the GAMB policy. This policy was adopted and essentially gave Fannin County schools the option of arming personnel.

While the new policy definitely grabbed the attention of parents and residents alike, administration and staff had also been working in other ways to help secure campuses and ensure the safety of Fannin County children.

“We work diligently everyday to ensure the safety of our students,” Long said of the ongoing efforts, “If a child doesn’t feel safe at school, they can’t learn. Those are one of the basic needs that have to met.”

One element of safety that Fannin County is proud to offer is that a School Resource Officer (SRO) is assigned to each of the school campuses.

“This is a community effort by the Fannin County School System, the Sheriff’s Department, and Blue Ridge City Police,” Long explained of groups working together for the betterment of the schools.

Long spoke specifically of the resource officers in Fannin County stating that “it takes a special person to be a resource officer. It takes someone who loves the students, who wants to be involved, and who wants to make a difference in that young child’s life.”

“That’s the best set of eyes that we have,” Long continued to explain the importance of SROs in our schools, “when a student feels comfortable reaching out to our resource officers and confiding in them and giving them information.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Fannin County’s School Resource Officers credited with going above and beyond for the students.

Fannin County also has an emergency operation plan for the schools. This emergency operation plan has been in effect and constantly evolving since 2003.

The comprehensive safety plan covers a number of scenarios from weather and gas leaks to active shooters and bomb threats.

The plan in the past was vetted or checked by GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency), but recently under new guidelines has been handed over to local agencies for approval.

Though local agencies are now in charge of reviewing the district’s comprehensive safety plan, it still must meet all requirements laid out by the state of Georgia as stated in O.C.G.A.20-2-1185.

“I’m going to brag on ours. Ours exceeds the minimum requirements by the state,” Fannin County School Resource Officer Lieutenant Darvin Couch said of the district’s most recent plan.

Active shooter drills were performed at the schools during the summer of 2018, but none of these drills have taken place while students were present.
Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) also performed a mock disaster drill over spring break of 2018.

Fannin County Transportation Department participated in this drill and school bus drivers got to experience the scenario of moving people during a disaster. This drill also included the setting up of shelter at Morganton Baptist Church.

Long informed the public that all schools have top of the line cameras in place, and that SRO’s as well as the Sheriff’s Office have the ability to remote access the cameras. These cameras are capable of producing clear images of not only people but also vehicles and vehicle tags.

Through the use of these high tech devices, security is able to pinpoint the “location of whatever the threat could be” and know “what they are getting ready to go into”.

Fannin County High School added 52 of these cameras in the months of March and April in 2018.

“We are working with all three of our elementary schools to work on a plan to control access at our elementary schools,” Long said of the ongoing effort to continue safety improvements.

“None of us wants to limit anyone to come to school with their child,” Long added. The school system wants parents and guardians to always feel welcome, but would like to know who and when someone enters a school building or campus.

The high school will experience a similar point of entry security measure with a “storefront” door being placed before the office at the main entrance. This door will require either a key card entry or for a person to be buzzed in.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Members of the Board of Education along with faculty of the school system receive certification for emergency operations plan.

Beyond local networking with various emergency providers to our county, the school system was also in contact with the Georgia Secret Service Agency.

“We have actually reached out and have a contact with an agent out of Atlanta,” Long said, “and they are going to be working with us on some different measures that we can use to keep our schools safe.”

“Safety also takes on many aspects. It’s not only the school’s safety of the buildings, the campus, and the faculty, but also involves our faculty members and our employees,” Long stated.

SRO Couch presented the BOE with a certificate recognizing the work the school system has done through extensive planning in exceeding the requirements set forth in providing and updating a comprehensive safety plan.

Couch read from a letter written by Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby: “From tornadoes to terrorism, Fannin County faces a variety of ever-evolving threats, underscoring the importance of updating plans in cooperation with local public safety professionals.”

Kirby added in his letter,”I am pleased to inform you that your school emergency operations plans have once again successfully met the requirements of O.C.G.A. 20-2-1185.”

The BOE, administration, and staff continue to work within the community and access outside resources to provide the best safety solutions for the students of Fannin County.


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Natalie Kissel

New Locking System for Fannin County School System


BLUE RIDGE, Ga.—Oct. 11 Fannin County School Board of Education voted and approved a new key card locking system for Blue Ridge Elementary School and West Fannin Elementary School.

West Fannin Elementary received a quote from Howard Technology Solutions for $43,803.66. This quote amount covers all equipment, including installation, and will be paid through Fannin County Board of Education’s SPLOST fund.


Blue Ridge Elementary received a similar quote from Howard Technology Solutions for $46,872.66. This quote covers all equipment, including installation. $44,780.00 will be reimbursed to the Fannin County School System by GaDOE (Georgia Department of Education) Facility Safety Grant Bond Funds.

These locking systems will keep school doors locked and no one can enter the school building unless they have a key card.

Staff members will have key cards that will allow them access into the school buildings and there will be a database that shows who was in and out of the school last.

These key cards can also be activated and deactivated at a moment’s notice should there ever be an issue concerning the school’s safety. - Dedicated to serve the needs of the community. Provide a source of real news-Dependable Information-Central to the growth and success of our Communities. Strive to encourage, uplift, warn, entertain, & enlighten our readers/viewers- Honest-Reliable-Informative.

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