Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

May 11, 2013

Local authorities prepared to alert public

VALDOSTA — If you’re a student of World War II history, then you know that weather forecasting played a crucial role in several major Allied decisions.

After the war was over, the United States military became a big proponent in developing the technology necessary to make week- and month-long forecasts, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into a joint project between the Institute of Advanced Study, the Radio Corporation of America and the Navy, which were aided by the ENIAC computer and a few million punch cards.

That research in the 1940s is what led to the National Weather Service’s ability today to make

accurate weather predictions and send severe weather warnings both to the nation and local communities.

Like in Hahira. In 2010, Hahira received a FEMA grant for a weather-warning siren. The siren, which is only used for tornado warnings and high winds more than 65 miles per hour, depends on warnings from the NWS station located in Tallahassee.

“We have multiple ways to get alerts, but it usually comes by the duty phones,” said Hahira Fire Chief Dwight Bennett. “After we get the alert, the siren can be remotely or manually activated.”

While the siren has only been used twice since its installation, it has a radius of about 1.5 miles if you’re indoors and up to five miles if you’re outside. It can give citizens a window of warning for emergencies.

“The window really depends on how fast we get the warning from Tallahassee. I mean, a tornado can drop down in a second. Last spring, we had a hit-and-miss tornado, and with the siren, we were able to give a good 15 minutes notice before it came in.”

The siren serves as an extra warning system along with Lowndes County’s CodeRed, an automated system that sends warnings by phone call, text and email.

“CodeRed is a good system, but we didn’t want to depend on everyone having a phone or being by a phone. We implemented CodeRed to create a redundancy in communications,” said Ashley Tye, Lowndes County emergency management director. “Worse-case scenario, between the Internet, radio, print media, television and CodeRed, emergency management should be able to release information through at least one media if communications began to fail.”

The CodeRed system is available free to any resident living inside Lowndes County, including residents of Valdosta, Hahira, Lake Park, Remerton and Dasher. To sign up for CodeRed, visit www.lowndescounty.com and click on the black-and-red CodeRed icon on the right side of the homepage. Citizens who don’t have Internet access can register by calling Lowndes County Emergency Management, (229) 671-2790.

“Lowndes County doesn’t use CodeRed to release information that is unrelated to an actual emergency,” said Paige Dukes, Lowndes County Public Information Officer. “In the event a CodeRed call is launched, citizens are encouraged to follow call directions, remain aware of their surroundings and stay tuned to local media. While citizens should call 911 to request emergency assistance, it is important that citizens do not call 911 as a result of receiving a CodeRed call. During an emergency, dispatchers are extremely busy coordinating the response of law enforcement, fire, EMS, animal control and even public works.”

Lowndes County Emergency Management also advises families to develop an all-inclusive emergency preparedness plan for their homes and businesses, as well as a ready kit containing necessary items a family would need in an emergency.

For more information and help developing emergency-preparedness plans and ready kits, visit www.ready.ga.gov

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