Do I have to sign up for every type of alert? No, only sign up for the alert categories you are interested in.

 Can I change my choices later? Yes, follow the link in your registration email, or return to the original signup page and click the button to “Modify or Unsubscribe.

 If I’m signed up for notifications from my home, but happen to be in another town when it issues an alert, will this system still notify me? No, this service does not have the ability to track cell phones by GPS. If the situation is severe enough, Emergency Management will send a Wireless Emergency Alert to all the cell phones in a targeted area.

How do geo-targeted alerts work in this system? If we want to issue a notification for just a neighborhood or small portion of a city, and not alert those who would be unaffected, the sender will draw a polygon on a map for the target area. Everyone who entered an address that falls within that polygon will get the alert, but those elsewhere in the city will not. In addition, the system will access published phone records and call any landline (home or business) that is listed for an address within the polygon.

Can I enter more than one location for geo-targeting? No, only one location per profile. Who decides if the message will be sent via email, text, or voice? There are guidelines that every sender will follow, but ultimately the decision rests with the message author, and will be based on the severity of the situation, and the urgency of the need for notification. Non-urgent messages will almost always go out via email-only. Something a little more serious could go out via email and text, while true emergencies might go out simultaneously via email, text, and recorded phone call.

 How long will it take to issue urgent or emergency alerts? It is hard to say since it will always depend on the situation, the time of day, and the availability of information. The only alerts that will come through automatically are weather watches and warnings from the NWS. The Public Safety alerts will require a human to write and send the message every time, so there will always be some delay. We will always try to get the messages out as quickly as possible, but there is no guarantee you will receive an alert before you are impacted.


Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS)

The Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) is FEMA's national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency and life-saving information to the public through mobile phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts, to radio and television via the Emergency Alert System, on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Radio, and other platforms.

Ford County Emergency Management is a FEMA approved IPAWS Alerting Authority. As an Alerting Authority, Emergency Management is able to send IPAWS messages to warn the public in times of public danger. The National Weather Service is responsible for sending weather related IPAWS messages. KHP is responsible for sending Amber Alerts. Ford County Emergency Management will typically send all others. IPAWS messages are assigned a FEMA event code depending on the severity of the threat or type of message being sent. Those FEMA event codes can be referenced here.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are short emergency messages from authorized federal, state, local, tribal and territorial public alerting authorities that can be broadcast from cell towers to any WEA‐enabled mobile device in a locally targeted area. Wireless providers primarily use cell broadcast technology for WEA message delivery. WEA is a partnership among FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and wireless providers to enhance public safety.  

Emergency Alert System (EAS)

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires radio and TV broadcasters, cable TV, wireless cable systems, satellite and wireline operators to provide the President with capability to address the American people within 10 minutes during a national emergency.

Alerting People with Disabilities and Access and Functional Needs

Executive Order 13407 mandates that the federal government “include in the public alert and warning system the capability to alert and warn all Americans, including those with disabilities and those without an understanding of the English language.” The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System office is working endlessly to build a stronger and more inclusive alert and warning system. More information regarding additional capabilities of IPAWS can be found here.

Outdoor Warning Devices

It is important for everyone to have the same expectations when it comes to outdoor warning devices, commonly referred to as tornado sirens. First and foremost, the sirens are not meant to be heard indoors. The devices are in place to warn people who are outside, away from radio and TV, that something bad is happening, and they need to get inside, turn on local media, and find out what is going on. That means for most people the sirens are NOT meant to be a primary means of receiving an alert; they serve as a backup to one of the primary methods listed above.

When do warning devices sound?

  • Ford County Emergency Management tests sirens every Wednesday at noon, except on when the sky looks threatening.
  • The sirens in Ford County sound when there is an attack on the homeland or an air attack in times of war; this is signaled by using the classic rise-and-fall
  • The sirens also sound for tornado warnings by using a steady alert tone.
  • There is no such thing as an “all clear” sounding; if the sirens are activated, it means danger is near, so TAKE COVER, TUNE IN, and TAKE ACTION!

How does the warning system operate?

Ford County Emergency Management coordinates with the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Dodge to provide the timeliest and most accurate weather warnings possible for the citizens of Ford County. One of the ways we do this is through selective sounding of only the sirens associated with the threat, rather than sounding the entire county every time.

When the NWS issues a tornado warning, they draw an area on the map starting with where the storm is currently and include the area downstream of the storm that may be affected. This is called the warning polygon. The polygon instantly appears on our siren computer, along with a list of sirens that are located in, or can be heard within, the warned area.  ONLY these sirens will be activated.  If a community or an individual siren lies outside the warned area, the device(s) will not sound.

This system helps prevent over-warning the public and contributing to something called siren fatigue.  For example, if the storm is near Spearville and moving toward Hodgeman County, why warn the people in Wright, Ford, Bucklin Derby or even Dodge City? If you sound the sirens in areas where no threat exists, and nothing happens time after time, eventually people start to tune out the sirens and they lose their effectiveness.

With selective sounding of our devices, it means there’s no room for complacency or guess work; if the siren near you is sounding, the threat is real, it is close, and you should take shelter immediately!  If you are not in the warning polygon, you still should tune to local media to see where the storm is, and which direction it is moving. If the storm appears it could be headed your way, be prepared to take action in case another warning is issued.

How do I report a non-functioning outdoor warning device?

Email rbeemer@fordcounty.net or call the emergency management office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 620-801-4401 and advise any available staff member. For times beyond normal business hours, contact 911.

Where are the warning devices located?  

Click for Tornado Siren Location

Presentations by Emergency Management Staff are available.

Just call 620-801-4401, or email us to discuss preferred topics or to schedule a presentation

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