CEMA Director talks about outdoor warning system after Saturday’s tornado


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Director Dennis Jones says his agency is already looking into how to ensure outdoor sirens go off if there is another tornado warning. 

“As far as the siren system not activating on Saturday, it was something that we took very seriously,” said Jones.

He told News 3 that a maintenance issue from the National Weather Service caused the system to go offline.  

“I understand that systems have to be taken down for maintenance but notification would have been nice,” said Jones. “We could have put other provisions in place in order to make sure we were ready to go if something happened.

Jones said they do have a backup system but there wasn’t time to activate it.  

“We do have a backup plan in place but this (storm) system happened so fast – less than four minutes – is the time that the tornado touched down to the time it was gone,” he added. “We can’t control their maintenance schedule but we’ve started doing research to see if there is an alternative program.”

Jones said they are looking into the possibility of using newer software but that they must find something compatible with the current, older siren system.

Meanwhile, Jones told News 3 there are up to 9 ways that people can be informed about a warning including text and email alerts from CEMA or using a NOAA weather radio if you don’t have access to a cell phone for text alerts.  

He also said that on Saturday, most people with smartphones automatically received emergency alerts. (You can activate the emergency alert system in Notifications on your cell phone. Under “Government Alerts” activate “Emergency Alerts.”)

Jones said on Saturday, 8 of the 9 ways to notify people of potential danger “worked.”  He said they’ll continue to work on resolving any problems with the outdoor warning system.

“We realize that the sirens were problematic for some (people) and we’re doing everything that we can to try and resolve that issue,” Jones told News 3.

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