From now on, Monroe Countians will witness a change in phone alerts during particularly severe thunderstorms.
As Kevin Scheibe, Monroe County Public Safety Director for 911 and Emergency Management, said at last Wednesday’s Columbia Chamber of Commerce meeting, the National Weather Service sends phone alerts during storms with 85 mph winds and hail two or more inches in diameter. This change began Sunday.
Scheibe said if a storm meets these conditions, the National Weather Service considers it a Tier 3 Destructive Warning and it will automatically send a warning to all cell phones in the affected area.
Scheibe said this can come in handy when visiting areas one may not immediately recognize by name.
“It’s going to help you if you’re travelling through the United States … and you’re in a destructive warning area, because some people don’t know where they’re at when they are traveling,” Scheibe said.
He noted county citizens may hear the terms “Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3” on newscasts. He explained “Tier 1” is a “base warning,” “Tier 2” is a “considerable warning,” and “Tier 3” is a “destructive warning.” The tier numbers reflect increasing severity.
This change was prompted, Scheibe said, by the county seeing a 80 percent false alarm rate with tornadoes and the potential implications of this.
“People in the National Weather Service have been getting reports that it’s almost like crying wolf, (that) we’re too easy to set off the sirens and people say ‘It’s just another false alarm.’ This is why the National Weather Service has stepped in and said ‘(The) destructive (level) is going to definitely be where everybody gets notified no matter what,’” Scheibe said.
Code Red, which is Monroe County’s phone alert system, will continue to operate as usual, Scheibe said, and the National Weather Service’s Tier 3 threshold does not need to be met in order for the county to activate Code Red alerts or sirens.
In fact, while Code Red alerts mainly pertain to weather-related warnings, it has been used to inform residents of other topics, such as boil orders.
To sign up for Code Red alerts, click here.