Sounding the alarm on need for tornado warnings

1

After the Island recently experienced tornado warnings and saw tree damage, flooding, and power outages as a result, Dukes County emergency management director Chuck Cotnoir wants the Vineyard community to know what to do in the event of an emergency. 

Cotnoir explained at Wednesday’s Dukes County Commissioners meeting that the National Weather Service charts warning areas on a map where a tornado may hit. That data is then transmitted to Code RED, a mobile alert application that notifies users of potential emergencies. 

“In order for a person to get alerted, they have to either have the Code RED app on their phone, or they need to have gone to the county website and opted in to the Code RED system,” Cotnoir said. “That’s how they get alerted — either by their landline, smartphone, or email.”

Only people using Code RED that are within the warning areas will receive emergency alerts, according to Cotnoir. 

County commissioner Christine Todd said that, during the tornado warning in July, she would have had “no idea” what to do if she didn’t have her cell phone with her.

“I would not have known anything was happening. I looked at my cell phone and it said there was a tornado warning. That’s when I turned on the television and got first instructions,” Todd said.

Todd asked what the county can do, despite each town having its own emergency management plan, to notify the entire Island if a tornado strikes.

“This is a situation where you have no warning at all. If you don’t have your phone or your television or radio on, you are totally in the dark,” Todd said. “It infuriates me that we don’t have an Island-wide comprehensive emergency management plan where everyone is on the same page.”

She said weather circumstances are becoming more extreme, and there is a trend that the Island is not aptly responding to.

Cotnoir said that, in the past, each town had sirens they would blow in times of peril. 

“I would suggest each town go to their emergency manager and see if they can get those sirens reactivated,” Cotnoir said.