Storm fears? Sign up for Instant Alert
The recent tornadoes tearing through Oklahoma over the past weeks have left a combined death toll of at least 41 according to CNN reports — and a vivid reminder of the destructive power of this form of natural disaster.
The tornado that struck El Reno on Friday had a record width of 2.6 miles and was the second EF5 tornado to hit the Oklahoma City area in less than two weeks, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.
If you’re new to the area, Minnesota gets tornadoes, too. June and July are the entrance to the tornado season for the northern plains and upper Midwest.
Though the threat of tornadoes can be observed through weather indicators such as a dark or “greenish” sky, wall clouds, or large hail, many communities have established systems to warn residents of potential weather threats.
While Oklahoma City utilizes a system of 182 sirens that connect with notifications from the National Weather Service, the city of Detroit Lakes and surrounding areas have applied other measures of alerting the community about potential weather threats.
Bob Louiseau, Detroit Lakes City administrator, said that “the problem with sirens is that Detroit Lakes is a spread-out community. Plus the capability of that type of system is limited.”
While city officials wanted to implement an emergency alert system, the expense of sirens and difficulty of finding a cost-effective and reliable program to get information to the community led to the exploration of other options.
The city administration began looking to the Instant Alert program used by public schools for busing and sporting events as an example of a potential solution.
“With Instant Alert, we can tailor messages for specific groups well beyond just blowing a siren,” Louiseau said. “There’s a lot more capability — not only instant alert capability that you’d have with a more conventional system. If there’s something that’s going to affect one area of the community we can alert that one area.”
According to Louiseau, Detroit Lakes incorporated the Instant Alert system about three years ago. Surrounding communities have also introduced the system.
Now Burlington, Lakeview, and Erie townships, as well as the cities of Lake Park, Audubon and Frazee have established extensions of the emergency warning program.
Since the introduction of Instant Alert, Louiseau said, “membership has been growing slowly. Every time someone else has a disaster, membership increases.”
Louiseau encourages the community to take advantage of this emergency alert service, and he notes that “the biggest limitation is that it requires someone to come in and sign up.”
Registration with the Honeywell Instant Alert Plus system is available on the Detroit Lakes city website. The system provides immediate notice to the community about natural disasters such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, as well as no-travel advisories and missing child notifications through multiple devices such as cell phones, email, fax and other electronics.
The service is funded by tax dollars and requires no additional fees to sign up.
As the destruction of the Oklahoma tornadoes has reminded the nation, early warning is crucial in the face of weather threats and natural disasters. The Instant Alert System grants officials and first responders the ability to instantly spread information throughout the community, providing time to find safety and shelter that may be crucial in saving lives.
Article written by Libby Larson of Detroit Lakes Newspapers