If you have a smartphone, you may have gotten an alert Wednesday afternoon for the statewide tornado drill, but not every county participated.
In some places, the drill may include a local tornado siren going off in your community. For others, it’s the simple text alert, or even a phone call, alerting you to the statewide testing drill. But not every county takes part in the drill, and in one community, they avoided it altogether.
“This message is for test purposes only. The National Weather Service in Gaylord has issued a test tornado warning for all of northern Michigan. This is a test message only, no action is required.”
A statewide tornado drill just hits different in a community that’s had a tornado of its own.
Gaylord Police Chief Frank Claeys says, “we didn’t fully participate in the statewide drill there. Obviously, there’s some freshness to our actual event. You know, normally it would be a Code Red test alert of that system.”
Gaylord is still recovering from a deadly tornado just over 10 months ago: May 20 of last year. Because of that, they’re sensitive to the raw nerves another tornado alert might cause.
Otsego County Emergency Management Director Jon Deming says, “it’s a slow process recovery and we don’t want to upset the public from this event they just had last May.” He adds, “we’re still recovering from our last one, our one and only tornado.”
Gaylord also does not use tornado sirens. Deming says they don’t work well in rural areas. But what works better is text alerts. Otsego County uses a program called Code Red.
“There will be a link right to Code Red and you register your phone and then... that will put you in the system. So any time we send out an event, what it would be, it could be a hazardous material, it could be a lockdown situation, it could be some other type of event going on or a severe weather event. They’ll get an alert,” Deming says.
And Chief Claeys says “it’s incredibly effective. You know, in 2023, people are glued to their phone. It was the biggest thing that local people that were here for the event said was a lifesaver. You know, the people that were actually here experiencing that event, it’s a great system.”
Regardless of whether your community participates in a drill or alert testing day, it’s a good time to make a plan for you and your family. And you can sign up for Code Red or other programs offered in your county.
Deming says, “it is a good day for the people to think about a plan. It did happen. What have you done to prepare yourself for the next event?”
Chief Claeys says another thing he likes about Code Red is that “not only does it let you know something is going on, but it tells you what is the appropriate actions to take.” And he adds, “it just gets that information out that is critical to the public, to keeping them safe.”
“Things like tornadoes do happen in Northern Michigan, however rare. When you get that alert, treat it like it’s the real thing. It could just be the thing that saves you,” The Chief says.
Code Red also allows the user, if they choose to, to enter information about the people that live in their home. This helps first responders in the event of an emergency, such as a fire or tornado, to make sure everyone is accounted for. You can also add information about vehicles and who drives them, and family pets.
Residents should check with their own county government to see if Code Red or a similar service is used where they live. However anyone can sign up for Code Red for free. To register your phone number and/or address and family, click here.