The Campbell County Emergency Management Agency (CCEMA) is currently evaluating the emergency warning criteria as the Aug. 25 storm prompted the National Weather Service (NWS) in Rapid City, South Dakota, to issue a severe thunderstorm warning for Campbell County with three updates, all between 6:07 and 6:45 p.m.
The final two updates were issued as the storm was already on top of Gillette and wind speeds quickly topped 70 mph, with ping pong and golf ball sized hail. These updates were initiated by a combination of radar indication and trained weather spotters.
The outdoor emergency alert system currently only activates sirens when a tornado warning is issued. According to CCEMA Coordinator David King, discussion is underway whether or not to reprogram the voice so the system can also be utilized as an alert system during what he referred to as “dangerous weather,” including severe thunderstorm warnings.
King will be presenting weather-warning criteria changes to the County Commissioners in the near future and working to determine next steps. According to Commissioner Mark Christensen, changes to the existing system would require public education to support the changes. Once this discussion takes place, a public hearing will be held to gather community input.
King stressed that the emergency alert system is designed to be heard only by those outdoors and there are also other indoor warning systems that provide alerts during severe storm threats:
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios, which can use Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) that allows users to pinpoint a specific area to receive weather alerts
- Two free and GPS-based apps: Red Cross Emergency and FEMA
- Other emergency apps per King: WeatherBugand Wyoming 511
- Sign up for CCEMA notifications here.
- King noted that during severe weather events, CCEMA’s priority is monitoring weather and other conditions so this is not considered a first alert system.