Howard Co. officials, residents enthusiastic about new weather alert system

A car sits halfway in a basement at a leveled home near Home Avenue and Hoffer Street. (Kokomo Tribune Photo, file/Kelly Lafferty)

KOKOMO, Ind. (WISH) – Indiana experience its third largest tornado outbreak just last year. Among the hardest hit was Howard County.  Now, the county has implemented a new alert system to give neighbors immediate access to the National Weather Service alerts.

Launched just weeks before Indiana’s Emergency Preparedness Week, Howard County residents are just a click away from access to a new service that sends severe weather alerts straight to cell phones, work phones or even email inboxes.

On November 17, roughly 70 tornadoes swept across the Midwest.  More than 160,000 people were without power in Indiana.  Howard County was among the hardest hit.

“We’ve been through a lot in the past six months or so with the tornado and the winter weather,” said Nick Capozzoli, Kokomo-Howard County 911 Center Communications Director.

For years, Howard County has had about ten tornado sirens to warn citizens.  They’re scattered about in Greentown, Russiaville and volunteer fire houses.

“You really have to be around them to really hear them and know what’s happening,” said Capozzoli.

The Howard County Citizen Alerting system went live March 1.  Capozzoli says the challenge is educating residents about what it is and how to sign up.  Neighbors 24-Hour News 8 spoke to hadn’t heard of the new option, but liked the idea.

“If there was something that we could get across our cell phone, yeah, that could be beneficial,” said John Ellis.

It’s simple to register from your phone or at a computer.  It also allows you to detail what alerts you get and how you receive them.  You can also set the alerts to turn off during certain hours, when you might be sleeping and don’t want to be disturbed.  The only thing the service demands is you always receive tornado warning alerts.

“I’ll definitely be interested in it. I know on Facebook, I went to some of the weather things and they sometimes send alerts every now and again.  But that would be even better,” said Sarah Wells.

Wells was working at Kokomo’s Buffalo Wild Wings when the tornadoes came through in November.  She says she will definitely be signing up for the alerts.

“Definitely, because I was here and my kids were at daycare. So, I didn’t know what was going on,” said Wells.

“I think it’s very important because then you can take shelter and take cover. Because you never really know what it’s going to be when you’re in the middle of it,” said Linda Riley, who also works in Kokomo.

Howard County is the latest to join a handful of Hoosier counties contracting out to Everbridge.  It’s a mass communication company based out of Massachusetts that handled the alerts for Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing.  The county did extensive research last year to make this decision.  So far, they say it was a good one.

“This company and this style of notifying citizens will only get better and improve.  So, we’ll be able to use all of that technology in the future and not have to continue to reinvent the wheel,” said Capozzoli.

Capazzoli says the only problem right now is, he’d like to see more people signed up for the program.   Only about 1,300 of Howard County’s 83,000 residents are in the system.

If you’d like to sign up, click here.

Friday,  the Kokomo JC Penney store will reopen for the first time since the storms hit, 24-Hour News 8’s news gathering partner the Kokomo Tribune reports.  The store will open at 10 a.m. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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