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Weather radios, emergency notifications help residents prepare for severe weather

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By Drew Nichter

When severe weather hits, Kevin Nuss wants Oldham County residents to be ready.

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The county’s emergency management director said of all potential dangers, tornados pose the greatest threat to residents’ safety – especially at 3 a.m.

“We’re in a 24/7 electronic age now, but when people are asleep, they still need to be notified,” Nuss said.

The county upgraded its notification system in July. Code Red replaced One Call Now for emergency alerts.
Code Red is more robust, Nuss said, offering several notification options. Residents can receive alerts via phone calls, text messages and emails.

The county is nearing the end of the first year in a five-year contract with Code Red.

The system will cost taxpayers $17,330 in the next fiscal year.

Oldham Co. Fiscal Court will pick up nearly $10,000 of that tab; the rest is paid by the county’s six incorporated cities: Crestwood, Goshen, La Grange, Orchard Grass Hills, Pewee Valley and River Bluff.

Nuss encouraged all residents to sign up for Code Red alerts at www.oldhamcountyky.gov.

But Code Red is just one link in the emergency notification chain, Nuss said.

A more valuable – and far cheaper – investment for homeowners is a weather alert radio.

And no home should be without one, Nuss said.

“You wouldn’t live in a home without a smoke detector,” he said. “Why would you want to live in a home without a weather radio?”

Most radios sell for $30-$40 and can be programmed to sound off only for specific alerts in a county, Nuss said.

Weather radio notifications come directly from the National Weather Service without any delay.

Code Red alerts are also triggered by the NWS, but such notifications are no substitute for the weather radio, Nuss said.

Telephone alerts do save lives though.

In 2011, James Price, of Crestwood, credited the former One Call Now system with warning him of an approaching storm.

A telephone call awoke Price and his wife just before 5 a.m. The couple fled to the basement moments before an 80-foot tree crashed into their bedroom.

“The system’s paid for itself many times over by saving those lives,” Nuss said.

One Call Now did have its flaws.

The system was established as an “elaborate phone tree,” Nuss explained. It was primarily intended for schools, churches and recreational clubs, among others.

It was later tweaked to serve as an emergency notification system capable of calling 10,000 phone lines per minute.

The problem, Nuss said, is the local telephone company can only handle up to 1,000 calls a minute.

That caused a notification bottleneck, he said.

Some residents complained they weren’t warned of a storm until it had already passed, Nuss recalled.

He said the county’s switch to Code Red – which purchased One Call Now’s emergency notification unit – should alleviate such delays.

Nuss said he hopes the coming year’s emergency management budget also includes $25,000 for a new warning siren.

There currently are seven sirens across the county. They are activated by Oldham Co. Dispatch when a tornado warning is issued.

Nuss said there are “dead areas” in the county where a siren is needed.

“If there’s money in the budget, we’ll certainly put one up,” he said.

Warning sirens are tested at 10:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.

For more information on storm preparedness, visit the Emergency Management link under the “Services” tab at www.oldhamcountyky.gov.

Nuss is also on Twitter, @oldhamcokyema.

“With Twitter, Facebook and TV news, there should be no reason why anybody’s caught by surprise with severe weather,” Nuss said.

Email us about this story at: drew@oldhamera.com.