Tornado warnings more effective with local alerts

Only 10% of area residents had opted-in for local alerts

A cell phone user signed up for local weather alerts from their community, October 25, 2017 (KOIN)
A cell phone user signed up for local weather alerts from their community, October 25, 2017 (KOIN)

AURORA, Ore. (KOIN) — After an EF-0 tornado touched down in Aurora October 13 there’s been an informal initiative to make sure more people are warned about a tornado sooner.

The Aurora Fire Department reached out on their Facebook page and learned from followers that some people with the same cell service, same phones and sitting in the same room had mixed results: one would get the emergency alert, the other would not.

A big part of the problem is less than 10% of the people in the area have opted-in to the citizen alert system, METCOM911. The program they use has automatic access to landlines but can’t reach cell phones unless you give them your number.

“Our challenge is trying to get people to opt-in to that service,” said Gina Audritsh, the executive director of METCOM911. “And when I say opt-in, we’re looking for your cell phone and your email because that’s the preferred method that people want to be contacted these days.”

Aurora FD Lt. Bill Hansen said their “goal is to get that alert as soon as we can from the National Weather Service or wherever it might be coming from and echo that back out to everybody in the community.”

Their basic message: opt-in to your local emergency alert systems, don’t just rely on the automatic alerts that come with your phone. Sometimes those are sent only to specific cell towers to go out, so some folks fall through the cracks.