Press Release from Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, Feb. 4, 2010:
Notifications would alert residents of approaching severe weather
After witnessing the damage in his district done by a tornado no one heard coming, Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, is sponsoring a bill to create a reverse 911 notification system in Tennessee.
“Tornadoes typically have been the most dangerous weather threats to Tennesseans, especially in the last five years. We must make use of every alert system possible to warn our residents when a tornado could be close,” Stewart said.
The bill (SB2857) would create a pilot project to place one reverse 911 system in each of the state’s three grand divisions. The system would send recorded voice messages to notify residents of severe weather warnings and emergency information. The board in charge of the system could also add text message alerts to cell phones and receivers for the hearing impaired to create an additional alert.
Stewart toured the damage done on Jan. 21 in Monteagle and Sewanee, where a tornado hit in the evening without any advance warning from authorities. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the experience was enough to convince Stewart that the state needed to upgrade its alert system.
“No one in that area had any idea what was happening,” Stewart said. “We don’t need to wait until the next deadly tornado to implement this system.”
Tennessee’s tornado season typically stretches from March until May, but the Monteagle/Sewanee tornado reminded Tennesseans that the powerful storms can strike the state at almost any time of the year. Tennessee has experienced three major tornadoes since 2006, including last year’s storm in Murfreesboro. In those three storms combined, 46 people died.
The bill is currently in committee.