City Officials Work to Better Prepare Residents of Severe Weather

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A tornado rips through Woodward, Oklahoma killing at least six people. Sirens failed and many say they were not alerted a twister was coming. One resident says he did not hear sirens.

"I didn't, I just heard a loud train," says a Woodward Resident. "I thought it was a train coming down the tracks over there. I looked out and I saw the funnel and I started running through the house screaming 'Marsha, Marsha!'"

That failure raises questions about how people locally are alerted. On December 31, 2010 a deadly tornado ripped through western Washington County. Now, emergency management crews are working to prepare residents about severe weather.

As of April 4th, Washington County residents can now receive severe weather alerts through a new program called Code Red. At this time, Code Red is not available to all cities within Washington County.

"Some of our cities do not have a system. Some of them have already procured an alert system," says Deputy Director of Washington County Department of Emergency Management, Rick Johnson.  "We have eight cities who do not have any type of system at all."

Cities such as Springdale use an automatic emergency alert system to notify residents of severe weather. That system is connected to the National Weather Service in Tulsa.

"People can log onto it several ways but the easiest is on our website. They can pick and choose what notifications they want," says Wyman Mortan. "If it is a weather notification, those are automatic and go into our system and go automatically to those who selected to receive them."

Benton County uses a system called BC Alert. BC Alert sends out emails, texts and phone calls when bad weather hits.

As severe weather hits, keep it to 5NEWS for constant coverage on air and online. 5NEWS also has a downloadable application for smartphones and iPads.