Floyd County Prepares Citizens for Future Disasters with New Mass Alert System

Inland Flooding 2/1/2009 Floyd County

Floyd County, GA - Located northwest of Atlanta just at the Georgia-Alabama state line, Floyd County has a long history of severe weather events. The most recent event, an Enhanced Fujita Scale EF3 tornado, struck the town just after noon on Saturday, March 15, 2008. This tornado cut a half-mile swath across Polk, Floyd, and Bartow counties with winds estimated at 150 miles per hour. The devastation in Floyd County included one fatality, two injuries, the total destruction of five homes, major damage to seven homes, and minor damage to five homes. Many residents and county officials decided after this event that they needed an advance warning system for severe weather in order to mitigate future losses.

Floyd County has had seven Presidential Disaster Declarations since 1990 as a result of flooding, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and severe ice storms. The county has weathered through 67 severe thunderstorm events, 20 flood events, and 16 severe winter weather events in just the past 10 years. The area residents have also witnessed the devastating destruction of 12 tornadoes within the last 50 years.

Given the area’s history of hazards Floyd County decided to apply for funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) to furnish a mass alert system that would mitigate future risks for the area’s residents. The mitigation activity they chose, the CodeRED Weather Warning system, is a geographically based notification system that notifies residents of approaching dangers by calling their phones. It requires the citizens to register their addresses with their phone numbers so the system can notify them according to their geographical location. After receiving FEMA’s approval for their mass alert system project through the HMGP program, the county immediately began implementing the scope of work outlined in their application.

When the county first inquired about a hazard mitigation grant for a mass alert system, there was no idea how quickly the system would be put to use or how popular it would be with the residents. To announce the system’s activation on March 24, 2009, over 28,600 calls to citizens were made.

As of July 15, 2009 a total of 9,195 Floyd County phone numbers were registered to receive the mass alert calls. Since its activation, the county has utilized the system a total of 125 times, mainly for severe weather and tornado warnings. By the time it relayed its very first alert for a severe thunderstorm warning within the first 24 hours of operation, many citizens had already signed up for the service.

Scotty Hancock, the Floyd County Emergency Management Director comments, “We were amazed at the response we received from the installation of this system. So many residents were so appreciative of the warning calls to their phones in the hours after the initial launch. More than a month after the implementation of this system, I am still hearing people thank the county for investing in this system; not one negative comment so far. We have been extremely impressed with this and hope to expand services in the future.”