From the Thursday, July 9, 2015 Prairie Press.

ESDA has set up system to provide residents with a text, e-mail or voice message from NWS

Getting advance warning of a tornado is possible on a cell phone, home computer or other electric device but it does require Edgar County citizens to be proactive in the process.

The Edgar County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (ESDA) participates in the Wireless Emergency Notification System (WENS), which provides text, e-mail or voice messages alerting the recipient when a tornado watch or warning is issued.

ESDA coordinator Jill Taylor said the beauty of the WENS system is its use of Global Positioning System technology to notify only those in the impacted area. She offered the example of the National Weather Service (NWS) determining a storm threatens Kansas, but not Chrisman, the WENS system omits Chrisman area residents on the alarm.

“We (ESDA) do not send the messages,” said Taylor. “The National Weather Service does the alerts.”

Concern was raised about the system’s efficiency when several people complained they did not receive the countywide tornado warning issued in June.

Taylor said a review of the complaints found people had either not enrolled in the program or had switched from a landline phone to a cell phone and failed to notify ESDA of the new number.

She said having a residence in Edgar County does not automatically place a person on the alert list. People must opt in.

The easiest way to do so is by visiting and finding the logo of a storm cloud with the words “Edgar County Alert” in the upper left corner. Click on that space and the enrollment form appears. Fill out the information, including all of the phone numbers and email addresses that are pertinent and register the information to receive alerts. Another option includes calling the ESDA office at 217-466-3180 between 9 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday.

ESDA is also making an effort during the next few weeks to enroll people on the system and double check existing records to make sure they are accurate. To achieve that goal, Taylor and fellow ESDA staff member Erin Lorenzen will be at Rural King, 9 a.m. to noon, July 14; Kroger, 9 a.m. to noon, July 15; Walmart, 4-6 p.m., July 16; and the Edgar County Fair, 6-8 p.m. July 19, noon to 3 p.m. July 21 and noon to 3 p.m. July 22.

Not only can people check the status of their registration or get enrolled at the outreach sites, but ESDA will have a variety of promotional items like rain gauges and pencils to give away. People stopping at the table can also enter a drawing for a free weather alert radio that picks up NWS broadcasts.

“We are going to be giving away several weather alert radios at each station,” said Taylor.

Text messages, Taylor said, are the default but enrollees do have the option of receiving an automated voice message, if that is a preference.

“If they have the voice message option and don’t answer the phone, it rolls over and they get one repeat call,” said Taylor.

Tornadoes are the only weather related events sent out by the notification system. Taylor said WENS provides a set number of texts per year and a fee is charged if that number is exceeded. She said issuing warnings for thunderstorms or other issues would push the local ESDA office over the limit for texts since the system is also used to announce boil orders or other emergency situations.

Sign Up for WENS click on this image: esda-alert