Amy Cunningham
[email protected]
Thanks to a text messaging system implemented by Johnson County Emergency Management, residents now have an extra line of defense at their fingertips when preparing for incoming severe weather or other emergencies that might affect the area.
According to Adam Crowe, assistant director of community preparedness, JOCOALERT is an SMS text messaging service that runs through Twitter and offers immediate notification of dangerous weather alerts or other related emergency management information for Johnson County.
He said signing up for the service is easy and free – the only cost associated with the service is dependent on the user’s cell phone plan. The Emergency Management website urges users to contact their wireless provider for details before subscribing to JOCOALERT.
“(Program users) have to have text messaging on their phones; if they have text messaging they can text “follow jocoalert” to 40404 and they will be automatically subscribed (to receive alert messages),” he explained.  “It’s about as simple as you can make it.”
Crowe said that information the department sends out comes from the National Weather Service and cannot be filtered to provide location specific details – such as Gardner, Edgerton or Spring Hill; once signed up, users will receive alerts that affect the entire county. The service is judicious with the amount of information it sends out and is limited to advance weather warnings, severe weather warnings and, in the event of a catastrophic occurrence, information about emergency shelters.
Johnson County Emergency Management hopes that users will not rely solely on text messaging for severe weather updates, rather that the texting service will be part of a four-pronged approach for residents to stay abreast of changes in the weather.  Crowe recommends that residents also use a NOAA All-Hazard Weather Radio, Emergency Alert System, and local media to stay informed.