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Webb City Police use social media to notify residents when storm - KOAM TV 7

Webb City Police use social media to notify residents when storm shelters are unlocked

Updated:
This is the first year the public FEMA tornado shelters have been open in Webb City, MO.

City officials say their policy on unlocking the shelter doors includes social media usage to give the public immediate confirmation the shelter will, in fact, be open the second they arrive during a watch.

Many tornado shelters in our area are supposed to be open during a tornado watch.

However, some Webb City residents say they seek further confirmation before assuming the shelter doors will be unlocked.

"I wouldn't risk it," said Jean Pittsley, Jasper County resident. "I wouldn't drive if I didn't know it was open."

"If you get there and you're locked out, you could die," said Jeramy Lowe, Carterville resident.

That's why the Webb City Police Department is using social media to notify residents of unlocked shelters long before the sirens are sounded.

"The shelters are opened in advance," said Chief Carl Francis, Webb City Police Department. "When that happens, we put it out on social media. We have advised residents to get on Facebook and like those pages. It's one of the quickest ways to contact our citizens and let them know that the shelter doors are being opened."

Local emergency management officials say they also use social media to share information on watches and warnings, but it's up to each individual shelter to determine its own policy on notifying the public of when its doors are unlocked.

Residents say they are hopeful other shelters will consider using social media to send real-time updates on unlocking shelter doors.

"I'd like to see the surrounding areas be able to plug into that technology and use it," Pittsley said.

"I think the immediate tweet would be better because that way it lets people know right then and there that they could go," Lowe said.

Officials say there is on average 10 minutes from the time a warning is issued to when a tornado actually touches the ground, which is why they encourage people to only travel to a public shelter during a tornado watch.

"If you're going to utilize the shelter, do it before the warning sirens go off because it's too late after that," Francis said. "You don't have enough time."

Because each shelter has a different operations plan, emergency officials encourage residents to check with the policy of their nearest shelter.

Joplin Schools has a community safe room operations plan listed on its website at http://www.joplinschools.org/cms/lib07/MO01909954/Centricity/Domain/635/Joplin%20Schools%20Shelter%20Operations%20Plan%20-%20final.pdf.
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