Pottawatomie County to get new tornado sirens, alert system

Elisabeth Slay

Pottawatomie County will see changes to its tornado sirens and alert system as Oklahoma enters this year's tornado season.

According to Mason Wilson, Shawnee Police Chief and Director of Emergency Management, after about 22 years all the tornado sirens in the county are being replaced with new ones.

"The old system could only be activated by a person physically at City Hall," Wilson said. "The new system is automated with the National Weather Service alerts. The new system can also be activated remotely."

Wilson said the new system is constantly monitoring itself for any sort of malfunctions and those diagnostics are sent directly to the city and county in real time.

In addition to the sirens, Wilson said Shawnee and the county plan on updating the current alert system that notifies people of possible tornados in their area.

"We are currently using Hyper Reach for phone notifications. Our new alert system will be more user friendly and will be activated soon," Wilson said. "Our new alert system is Rave and is the same system used by schools to alert and communicate with police during an emergency situation."

The police chief said once the system is activated he will be informing the public on how they can utilize it.

Wilson said there are many differences between Hyper Reach and Rave, specifically quicker warnings and response to emergencies.

"The new alert system is more user friendly. It is also connected with our 911 system for quicker response by emergency services," Wilson said.

While the city and county are still working on these systems, Wilson said they will be up and running soon and in the meantime people will still receive warnings and notifications of possible weather emergencies.

"All of these upgrades will be completed soon. The new systems will increase the safety of the citizens by leaps and bounds," Wilson said. "We have more than half of the new sirens in place and they are fully functional with the old system. There will not be a lapse in coverage during this process."

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