Ever wondered how you would know if a tornado was bearing down on your house in the middle of the night while you were sleeping?

One option is to get a weather radio.  But now Woodward County residents also have the option to sign up to receive alerts by phone from a new countywide Public Emergency Notification System.

Woodward Emergency Manager Matt Lehenbauer announced Monday night during the Woodward City Commission meeting that after spending 2 years developing the notification system, it has now gone live.

Those who register for the notification system will receive calls, text messages and/or e-mails about hazardous weather or any other type of emergency situation in the area.

Lehenbauer said if the situation is potentially life-threatening, such as a tornado or a wildfire approaching homes, the alert will be made via a phone call, as well as through text and e-mail messages.

"You'll get a call and text message, that way if one system doesn't work, there's a backup," Lehenbauer said.

However other notifications for less critical situations, such as a severe weather watch or school closing, would be sent only via e-mail and/or text message.

Lehenbauer said this is done because the notification system operates 24-hours a day, and officials "don't want to wake you up at night unless its an emergency."

ONLINE REGISTRATION

Woodward County residents can learn more about the emergency notification system and register to receive alerts by visiting readywoodward.com

The online registration form requires the name of the head of household, the E-911 address, mailing city and zip code.  (If you don't know your E911 address, which is different than a rural route mailing address for those living in the county, you may call 254-8584 to obtain your E911 address.)

When registering, you have the option to provide 3 telephone numbers, including one landline and 2 cell numbers, as well as 2 e-mail addresses, where you will receive the emergency alerts.  The form states you may also substitute the e-mail addresses with 2 additional cell phone numbers which would receive text-only alerts.

Although developing the notification system for public implementation has been a couple of years in the making, Lehenbauer said city officials are already familiar with the system and know it works because they have already been using the system to page out the city's volunteer firefighters.  He said the system can also be used to notify the city's other various departments of issues such as power outages and street closings.

'STORM SIREN IN EVERY HOUSEHOLD'

Lehenbauer said the Public Emergency Notification System is an improvement over the old method used to warn of emergency situations: storm sirens.

"Storm sirens are really for warning people who are outdoors, not people indoors," he said.

Lehenbauer said a lot has changed since storm sirens were developed in the 1950s.

"Back then homes didn't have the insulation they have today and they didn't have the loud televisions and such," which make it difficult to hear the sirens, he said.

In addition, he said "outdoor warning sirens are very expensive and one siren can only cover a very limited area."

But since the public emergency notification system sends alerts to phones and computers within the home, "it's like having a storm siren in every household," Lehenbauer said.

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