Issues with the mass notification system for Scotts Bluff and Banner Counties known as “Panhandle Alert” were exposed during the severe storms that passed through the area on Thursday night. Region 22 Emergency Management said the key is attempting to find a happy medium.
After the June 12th storms which produced several tornadoes, including the one that struck Bayard, many citizens complained that they did not receive a notification. Public Safety officials decided to allow the Panhandle Alert system to call all phones, including landlines. The storms on Thursday evening caused thousands of phone calls in the two-county region. These calls were supposed to only go to people within the “warning polygon” for the weather service. But they went to everyone in the system. The system has since been modified to only call those who have registered for the service and then, only to those within the warned area.
Region 22 Emergency Management Director Tim Newman said, “We received hundreds of calls from people who showed a missed call from my office number, 436-6689. This is the number that displays on the caller ID. Many people told us that they did not want calls on their home or business phones of this nature, so we are going back to the way it was. If someone wants to receive these notifications, they will need to sign up for them by visiting panhandlealert.org.” This system is only for those who live, work or go to school in Scotts Bluff or Banner Counties. Other counties in the Panhandle will be joining the system in the next year or two.
Newman says that signing up for the free service is easy and takes only about five minutes. If someone needs help signing up, Newman and some of the Region 22 Disaster Force volunteers will be at the 20th Annual National Night Out in Scottsbluff on Tuesday, August 1st from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the corner of Broadway and East 16th Street in the Region 22 Mobile Command Vehicle.