The United States Department of Commerce/National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has notified Butts County that it has met and maintained the requirements for the Storm Ready Community program, a Federal and State initiative designed to help communities become safer places from the threat of severe weather. The certification was awarded to Butts County Emergency Management Director Glen Goens on March 8th, 2012 at a meeting of EMA Directors in the West Georgia region by Barry Gooden, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Peachtree City National Weather Service Office. For many years prior to the use of electronic vocabulators, Gooden was known as the “Voice of Severe Weather” in Georgia, his voice being the one most people heard when their weather alert radios activated.

Gooden presented the certification upon the approval by the Georgia StormReady Advisory Board, denoting that Butts County has continued to meet all of the requirements put forth by NOAA, Georgia StormReady and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. These requirements are met through the use of severe weather advanced warning capabilities such as weather sirens, which has been expanded in Butts County over the past five years, and emergency notification systems such as the popular “CodeRED” warning system that Butts County implemented in 2010. This system has been utilized several times since it was installed and had already been credited with saving lives last April when major storms and tornadoes threatened the County.

District 2 Commissioner Robert Henderson, a strong advocate for the CodeRED warning system stated “Last year, part of my district was actually struck by a tornado, which did a lot of damage but thankfully took no lives. The people in Flovilla and southern Butts County who had CodeRED knew it was coming and took steps to protect themselves from it. I’m glad we put this system in place and I hope more people will sign up for it and take advantage of it. It costs them no money but could potentially save their life”. He went on to say “I want to commend Glen Goens and all of our emergency personnel for the work they do to keep Butts County citizens safe”.

District 5 Commissioner Roger McDaniel also saw first hand the power of the April 2011 tornado that caused massive damage in neighboring counties and came through the southeastern tip of Butts County. While emergency crews worked to clear what was essentially a forest of trees blocking Mount Pleasant Church Road, McDaniel grabbed a flashlight and set out to check on area residents using the only route available to him-the Norfolk Southern rail line that ran parallel to the road. The half mile trek involved climbing over fallen trees and even some downed power lines, which McDaniel was trained to recognize through his work with Georgia Power. “Fortunately, everyone was fine but we were lucky that it was not a whole lot worse” he stated at the time of the tornado. Just weeks before the tornadoes came through Georgia, a near-tornado caused a tree to crash through the house of a Jackson resident, taking his life and that of his young son. Tragedies such as this one cannot always be avoided but alertness and preparedness can reduce the risk of injury or loss of life.

The CodeRED system was installed in 2010 and several thousand citizens signed up for it to receive messages that can come through either their home telephone, cell telephone or both. After the April 2011 tornados, subscriptions skyrocketed by citizens who heard about how the system had called their neighbors. “We see spikes in subscribers each time bad weather is predicted for Butts County” said Interim County Administrator Michael Brewer. “Just last week, when we were threatened with possibly severe storms, I had a senior citizen call me and ask for help to get signed up. We are always glad to assist those that don’t use the internet or can’t access web services. For those needing assistance, the E-911 call center is staffed 24 hours a day and will gladly sign you up if you call the business number” he added.

That number is 770-775-8232 and the process only takes a few minutes. Citizens are encouraged to take advantage of these StormReady community initiatives, especially with the onset of storm season almost here. “Citizen safety is the most important function of Emergency Management” Director Goens stated. “Being designated as a StormReady community is a great honor but it means nothing if citizens don’t take advantage of the opportunities it offers like CodeRED. Our goal is to be ready, be smart and be safe when it comes to severe weather”.