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Hall County looking to add storm warning sirens
Kimbrell says additions would be built in 'high population areas'
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Gainesville knows far too well the nature of destructive tornadoes.

The storms have barreled through the region as recently as 2008, and have killed hundreds through Gainesville's history.

Though the region was spared by storms that devastated the Southeast last spring, Gainesville Emergency Management is working to better notify residents of potential storms.

Emergency Management officials recently requested a grant through Georgia Emergency Management to provide the city with three more tornado sirens in areas they felt were in need.

"There's some areas that we had identified that were not covered by the current sirens, which was a huge area in the county" said David Kimbrell, Hall County emergency management director. "These were some high population areas where outside activities happen."

Kimbrell said those areas include near the Lanier Point Park and Athletic Complex off Dawsonville Highway, an area off Thompson Bridge Road near the Nancy Creek fire station and Browns Bridge Road at Memorial Park.

The grant must first be approved before the sirens can be purchased, but Kimbrell said he believes it will be.

With the technological age progressing at a rapid pace, though, many emergency management agencies are using new methods to alert residents.

Dawson County uses a phone system, a method that is quickly catching on in other counties.

"We have outdoor warning sirens, as well as the telephone notification system," Dawson County Fire Chief Lanier Swafford said.

The system works by having someone activate it, which then phones a warning to every resident who has signed up for the free service.

"Most of our standard warnings, tornado warnings, are canned messages that we already have prepared in the system, so in the event the weather service issues a tornado warning, we can push ‘go' on the button," Swafford said.

The system allows the warning to either be transmitted countywide or only to a specific portion of the county.

It can be activated any time a threat is perceived regardless if a storm warning has been issued.

"We can use it as a proactive or as an at-need service for Dawson County," Swafford said.

The phone notification works so efficiently that Swafford said he would "most definitely" recommend other counties begin using it.

Kimbrell said Hall County has considered a similar system but has not been able to obtain funding for it. He said the phone system is an additional method to notify residents but the sirens are still a more reliable system.

"If you're playing softball or you may not have your phone in your pocket ... this, for outdoor warning, is still the best device," Kimbrell said.

Swafford agreed that the phone system is only an alternative method.

"Not everybody is indoors to get a phone message, so that's where the outdoor sirens supplement that and where we have those positioned are primarily areas of high outdoor usage," he said.

Hall County also uses Twitter to issue alerts, which Kimbrell said is a good method because so many people rely on social media for news.

"It's a good method," he said. "The biggest thing about that is it's no cost."

For now the county will continue to use tornado sirens as its main notification system. He said the sirens can be heard within a two-mile radius.

"If you're right next to them it will shake your head pretty hard," he said.

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