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Howard County Gets New Emergency Alert System

Kokomo is unprotected by tornado sirens and has relied on emergency alert radios. The new system calls residents' cell phones.

Damage from the Kokomo tornado.

Photo: Jashin Lin, WFIU/WTIU

Tornadoes that touched down in November in Kokomo destroyed more than 30 businesses and damaged or destroyed more than 200 homes.

There’s a new system in Howard County to alert residents of potential severe weather.

There are no sirens in the area so residents have relied on weather radios to alert them about storms such as the tornadoes that hit Kokomo in November.

With the new system, residents will receive a phone call alerting them if they’re in the path of a tornado.

Howard County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Nicholas Capozzoli says it’s part of an ongoing effort  to extend the reach of emergency alerts by spreading them across different technologies and tailoring them to residents in a specific area.

“We don’t want to cry wolf too much to people that don’t need that message,” said Capozzoli.” We only want to alert the people that need to get it and that way it sends the message out more efficiently.”

The system went live this week and residents can begin opting in.

In addition to severe weather, the system can notify people of other public health and safety concerns –such as health hazards, amber alerts and street closings. People can sign up for all the alerts or pick the specific ones they want to receive.

The automated system is powered by the same company that managed alerts for the Boston marathon bombing and Hurricane Sandy.

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