Washington County is one step closer to having a severe weather alert system for all its residents. The mayors of eight cities came together for a system called “Code Red” that calls residents when weather threatens.
It’s hard to forget the aftermath of heavy flooding in Johnson last year. The city had no way to warn residents the rains were coming. But now they have Code Red, an automated phone system that calls residents when severe weather approaches. It’s a tool the city's mayor says would have made a big difference.
"We could have called Code Red or punched it in that we need this,” says Johnson Mayor Buddy Curry. “And maybe some of the residents would have been called by phone and been told to get out before they had to be rescued."
Johnson is one of eight Washington County cities now subscribed to Code Red. Elkins, Elm springs, Goshen, Greenland, Tontitown, West Fork and Winslow have all signed up. Mayor Curry says many of the cities had thought of getting the system individually, but it was too expensive. So they bought the system together, cutting the price drastically.
"Our population is 3,354,” Mayor Curry says. “When we joined with all the other small towns it becomes 15,000. So ours went from two dollars a person to about 54 cents a person for everybody."
Elkins Mayor Bruce Ledford says the city had no other way to notify residents before Code Red.
"We had nothing to let the residents know what was going on about weather,” says Mayor Ledford. “And we have a lot of seniors in Elkins and they are really concerned along with everyone else about the weather."
Mayor Ledford says the best part of Code Red is that it's free for residents, and he and the other mayors are encouraging everyone to sign up.
"If this saves one person’s life at some time, it's worth every penny every town's paying for this,” says Mayor Curry. “Because you can't put a price on anybody's life."
You can already sign up for Code Red with your individual cities. Mayor Curry says the online registration through Code Red should be available in a week or two.
Residents living in rural Washington County have had Code Red since April.
Fayetteville and Springdale are the only Washington County cities that don't have Code Red, but they use other emergency notification systems.