Monday, June 17, 2013

Dunwoody Code Red Warning System and the future of Sirens

Thursday night I was at Food Truck Thursday enjoying the evening with my wife and a couple of my boys and we were entertaining former neighbors who had returned to Atlanta to vacation.  At 7:27 pm while sitting in the big grassy field where the music was playing, I received the first of three severe weather warnings on my phone from the Code Red Mobile Alert App as shown below.  The warning had a map of the warning area reaching from Canton to Sandy Springs, but Dunwoody was not listed, so why worry?  Just as the second notice came in at 7:40 pm, a Dunwoody policeman was walking around to notify everyone of the impending storm and the band was asked at that time to start packing up.

We packed up the chairs, the boys and the food that was yet to be eaten and headed off to the car.  Unfortunately the 18 year old former neighbor wasn't found at the vehicle as we were loading up, so I ran around to look for him.  I checked the field we were at, the rest rooms and he was nowhere to be found.  As the rain started to pour, I received the third warning at 7:48 and finally found him waiting for his second cheeseburger of the evening and he was without a doubt the last person served on Thursday as the truck owner was upset at his employees that he was still open with the impending weather.

The storm came in very heavy at that time and I saw the tall pine trees bend toward North Peachtree Rd.  At 7:50 as shown below, I attempted to call my wife to tell her that I found the neighbor, then she quickly called me back to say that she had moved the vehicle closer to where I was.

Finally at 8:05, well after the wall of straight line winds had done much of the damage, I received a phone call from the Code Red Weather Service informing me of the possibility of severe weather. It was too little - too late.

Did the Dunwoody Severe Weather warning system work for those at Brook Run on Thursday; to a certain level yes as the park had many people streaming out before the storm hit, but to a larger level the system either didn't work or didn't imply the seriousness of the situation.  Sirens would have done that and they would have cleared out the park much faster.

I will admit that I have been a member of council who has questioned the cost / benefit of a city wide sirens system even though the subject has been broached several times in the past couple of years by Councilman Denny Shortal.  With smart phones that buzz, beep and ping on command as well as the technology in most of our homes, I wasn't sure of the implementation of a city wide system was needed or be effective where double pane glass would muffle the sounds.   That being said, Council explored grant opportunities to see if we could supplement the funding but in the end no grants are available.  After the experience of Thursday, I believe that if the sirens were in place we would have taken the warnings as a serious warning an not just another ping on our phone and that second cheeseburger would have never been ordered.

On June 25th, the Dunwoody City Council will be amending the budget and if allowed (not sure that it is) I would happily vote to expend the $250,000 - $300,000 on a city wide siren system.   Trust me, that this item will once again be discussed by council in the very near future.

Rick Callihan over at Dunwoody Talk discussed this same topic and the aspect of possible zip codes affecting the triggering of the warning.  As an FYI, we have been attempting to unify the Dunwoody Zip Codes but have not made much progress in changing this Federal system.   

Pattie Baker also has been asking about a City Emergency Shelter but the City does not have any manned governmental buildings built to the public building code able to withstand possible disasters, as our City Hall & Police Station are just a typical commercial building and the library is leased DeKalb and we don't operate our schools therefore this is a hard question to answer until which time (8 - 10 years down the road) we start discussions on whether or not we should build our own city hall.


Pattie Baker said...

John: I'm specifically asking that a location (or 2, in case the first one gets destroyed) be designated as the probable location where Red Cross would set up in case it is needed following a disaster so that any agreements can happen long before the location is needed, and so that all family members (such as teens)can know what the location would be in case they are separated from family and needing assistance. In addition to schools (the most common designated location in other cities), churches are an option. Someone sent my post to the pastor of St. Patrick's yesterday and he is interested in discussing the possibility of St. Patrick's as the designated location with you. St. Pat's already has a 20-year track record of opening itself up to anyone in need every week at its food pantry. I sent your contact info.

Randy Pressnall said...

John, You should consider a lightning detection system like they have at Murphey Candler and Marist. I dont know if these systems can also detect tornado's but I can tell you that I have been coaching at Dunwoody Senior and been scared off the field by lightning. At Murphey Candler the system takes the onus off the parent/coach of determining if there is danger present. You should consider systems for Dunwoody Senior\Dunwoody Nature Center, Peachtree Middle\Brook Run and Dunwoody High

John Heneghan said...

Randy, I believe Murphy Candler is using and I will make sure it is part of the discussion. Thanks for the reminder.

Pattie, thanks for clarification and I look forward to the email or outreach. In fact I will ask Kimberly to reach out first.