Following confusion about the use of tornado sirens for heavy wind events, Warren County, Ill., is looking for a new way to alert the public about severe weather. An opt-in text system seems to fit the need.
(TNS) — Warren County residents will soon have the option to receive text message alerts about local weather.
Ken Helms, Monmouth director of information technology and community engagement, said area officials began looking into a new alert system after the National Weather Service recommended the use of tornado sirens for wind speeds up to 70 mph.
That is a new approach this year and has confused some residents, as that alert was previously reserved for tornadoes. The idea was first revealed to the public at Monday night's Monmouth City Council meeting.
"We didn't do a lot of siren activations before this year, so the public wasn't used to it. We're trying to address those issues as well, but it's part of a larger scope and we're starting to see more severe weather events than we have in the past," Helms said Tuesday.
Residents of Monmouth and Warren County would text message their ZIP code to a six-digit number, which would then opt the person into receiving alerts. Helms said alerts will include weather warnings, hail that would be estimated to pose a safety risk, tornado warnings and high winds.
Residents can expect a marketing push to inform the public about the new system once it is up and running. Helms said the Warren County 911 board is on the hook for any cost associated with the program.
County officials hope the six-digit number is set up so that residents can begin to sign up by mid-July. Helms said officials hope to reach between 75% and 80% of Warren County's estimated 17,700 residents with the program.
"The system works with anyone that has a cellphone. As long as they receive text messages, they can receive these alerts," Helms said.
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