As the director of Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security, I frequently am asked the same question: "What does your agency do?"
As I answer this question, I continually respond with the phrase, "You may know us as the agency responsible for the tornado sirens." This almost instantly receives an understanding head nod, and they have a picture in their mind of what that means.
Although the operation of the outdoor warning sirens only encompasses as very small portion of our daily workload, it is one of the main elements that impact and influence almost every citizen within Franklin County.
For many years, the Franklin County Outdoor Warning Siren System has served as the bread and butter of how we officially notify the public that a tornado warning has been issued for the area. With the advent of cellphones, smart devices, social media and changing technology, the outdoor warning sirens retain their functionality but are just one of many methods used to provide alerts and warnings to the public.
In 2015, we began using the countywide mass notification and warning system -- ALERT Franklin County. This system compares to the Reverse 911 System and enables us to send alerts and warning information to roughly 900,000 phones within Franklin County.
In addition, the system is customizable and allows residents to register and choose what kind of information they want to receive. By creating a unique profile, users are able to enter mobile phone numbers and email addresses, prioritize the manner and order in which they are notified, and select which severe weather and informational alerts they wish to receive and the location they would like to receive them.
The system also offers a "do-not-disturb" option, which enables users to limit the times they receive weather alerts, excluding tornado warnings.
In the aftermath of the EF-1 tornado that struck Grove City in April, I have heard several people comment on the informational messages they received as severe weather approached, as well as the issuance of the tornado warning through ALERT Franklin County. Comments have been similar to this: "The sirens went off; my phone started alerting me, and as we headed to the basement, the storm struck." This clearly indicates the importance of being prepared before a disaster strikes.
In the aftermath of a destructive event, rarely do you hear someone say they were fully prepared.
With that in mind, I encourage you to take the time to develop a safety plan, make an emergency supply kit and register for ALERT Franklin County at alertfranklincounty. org so that you may receive updated information on smart and mobile devices. For more information on preparedness, visit fcemhs.org.
Jeffrey Young is the director of Franklin County Emergency Management & Homeland Security.