Didn’t get a tornado alert from NotifyJoCo Wednesday? Here’s why that could be

Johnson County EMS says automated phone alerts went out to 15,000 residents who had opted in to receiving tornado warning alerts and lived inside the tornado warning area Wednesday morning. Above, a tree fallen on a home in Leawood following Wednesday's storm. Photo credit Nikki Lansford.

A tornado with wind speeds of up to 100 miles per hour rolled through Johnson County just before 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, causing a stretch of damage around 95th Street from Lenexa through Overland Park and Leawood.

Did you get notified? Some Johnson Countians like Marina L. McClure said they didn’t get a notification about the tornado warning on their phones through NotifyJoCo, the county’s automated mass notification system, and they’re wondering why.

  • McClure tweeted Wednesday that she didn’t know about the impending threat until her nine-year-old woke up to the sound of outdoor tornado sirens.

Alerts went out : Johnson County Emergency Management tweeted Wednesday that NotifyJoco automatically alerted more than 15,000 individuals who had opted-in to receive tornado warnings and whose registered addresses were in the tornado warning zone.

  • Even if you didn’t get a notification from NotifyJoCo, you may still have gotten an alert from the FCC’s Wireless Emergency Alerts system, which sends automated Amber Alert-style notifications to cell phone customers in a particular geographic area that is under an emergency.

Still, you may not have received a NotifyJoCo alert: The Post talked to Johnson County Emergency Management assistant director Trent Pittman and Julie Adolphson of the National Weather Service’s Kansas City field office in Pleasant Hill to find why some residents may not have gotten notified and how the county’s emergency alert system performed Wednesday.

Did the county’s emergency alert system work appropriately Wednesday morning?

  • Pittman with Johnson County EMS said sirens operated as expected once they were activated.
  • The automated alerts should’ve been received shortly after the tornado warning was issued at 1:21 a.m., he said.
  • Wednesday’s storm gave emergency responders little time, he said, and EMS used procedures to get the sirens activated by a fire or EMS dispatcher as soon as possible, he said.

I’m signed up for these alerts. Why didn’t I get notified Wednesday?

  • If this happened to you, Pittman said that may be because phone alerts were only sent to people with registered addresses inside the “tornado warning polygon” issued Wednesday morning by NWS.
  • However, if someone was located inside the polygon and was signed up to receive tornado warnings through NotifyJoco and did not receive a notification, Pittman said to call 913-826-5555.

How can I sign up for mobile alerts through NotifyJoCo?

  • Johnson Countians can sign up for NotifyJoCo, the county’s emergency notification system, online here.

I noticed the outdoor sirens went off minutes after I got an alert on my phone. Why? 

  • Pittman said alerts that are sent via NotifyJoCo and through Wireless Emergency Alerts or on weather radios are automatic systems, but sirens must be activated in person.
  • Automated alerts, he said, can be “lightning fast.”

Did the sirens sound off countywide rather than in just certain areas?

  • Yes, the sirens went off countywide Wednesday morning.
  • Adolphson with NWS confirmed Johnson County’s siren system is able to sound off only in impacted areas, something she said not all emergency alert systems are able to do.
  • Pittman said sounding the alarms as fast as possible took precedence over choosing which of the five zones to sound off.
  • Johnson County Emergency Management tweeted that due to how quickly the storm developed Wednesday, there was “an immediate need to activate sirens” across the county

 

If I don’t have a smartphone, will I not be able to receive NotifyJoCo alerts? 

  • NotifyJoCo allows residents and business owners to sign up with a landline or email in addition to a smartphone.
  • Voice, email and text messages are all delivered through NotifyJoCo.
  • Adolphson with the NWS suggests everyone — not just those without smartphones — consider a National Oceanic Atmospheric Association weather radio, which can be purchased at local grocery stores or retailers like Walmart or Target.

But I can still just rely on the outdoor sirens, right?

  • Both Adolphson and Pittman say no, sirens should not be your only means of being warned of impending severe weather or a tornado.
  • This is partially because outdoor sirens are intended to alert people who are outside, but in situations like Wednesday’s tornado, when people are inside (or asleep), then outdoor sirens may not be as effective.
  • That’s why Adolphson and Pittman suggest having multiple ways to receive severe weather alerts, such as mobile alerts, weather radio and broadcast media.

What else can I do?

  • People should always have a plan of where they’re going to go at any given time in the event of a severe weather event, she said. Additionally, it’s important to keep an eye on the weather daily, she said.
  • “We’re still in the peak of severe weather season right now, so everyone should be prepared and have a plan,” she said.