Bradley County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) officials work hard to keep citizens safe before, during, and after dangerous weather. In order to become Storm Ready certified, in 2000 they spent a few bucks beefing up their radar and getting trained to use it.
"We pretty much [now] use the same thing that Paul Barys uses, it's just a slimmed down version of that," says Troy Spence, director of the Cleveland-Bradley County EMA.
Storm Ready is a voluntary nation-wide program offered by the National Weather Service since 1999. It's designed to help improve weather tracking by local officials and communications between officials and residents.
Certified counties have to re-certify every three years. In recent years Bradley County has been widening its net of communication through a big push toward social media, including Twitter and Facebook. The latest addition after the April 2011 tornadoes is Nixle, an instantaneous notification system for mobile devices. Officials can type out any kind of message--for instance a weather warning or any important information you may need to know after storms strike-- and send it to all subscribers at once.
But Spence says only around 10% of eligible Bradley County residents have signed up.
"There's no reason why the public shouldn't sign up for this," Spence says. "It's a free service and it comes only from my office. So you're not going to get advertisements or anything like that."
EMA officials also visit schools to perform annual tornado drills, followed by assessments to make sure teachers, students, and staff all know where their "safe places" are to go as storms approach.
Living in a Storm Ready community not only makes it easier for you to stay ahead of severe weather, but as flood relief projects continue, like the ones in Cleveland, it may even save you some money down the road.
"There's a possibility that we can lower the ISO (Insurance Services Organization) rating which in turn would be like it is on fire insurance. It would lower their premiums," explains Spence.
But he adds that there are many more hoops to jump through before an insurance rating can change. For now his focus is clear.
"We want to be able to notify the public when we know there's impending danger to our citizens," emphasizes Spence.
To help you be even better prepared, the EMA is holding a weather radio giveaway Saturday, April 5th at the Ace Hardware on the corner of Peerless and 25th. An official will program your radio for you! Or, if you already have one and need it re-programmed they'll do that, too. For more information and to find out if you qualify for a free radio call the department at 423-728-7289.
Other Tennessee Counties in the Channel 3 viewing area that are Storm Ready include Hamilton, McMinn, Meigs, Rhea, and Sequatchie.