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Are you Storm Ready?

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Brandon Barth, emergency management officer for the Flower Mound Fire Department wants residents to be Storm Ready. (Photo by Mark Miller)

Between now and early June, weather events like severe thunderstorms with hail, high-winds and yes, even tornadoes, can threaten life and property here in southern Denton County. But following suggestions by area experts can help residents make it through the coming months safe and sound.

According to both Brandon Barth, emergency management officer for the Flower Mound Fire Department and Chris Muscle, emergency management coordinator for the Argyle Fire District, the primary way to know what’s coming is to connect with today’s technology.

“We encourage everybody to have at least three ways to receive notifications,” Barth said. “Obviously with smart phones now people can be notified in a plethora of ways.”

Both Flower Mound and Argyle are tied into a system called Everbridge that allows those who sign up for free to pick and choose the type of notifications they want and methods they want to receive them including text, email and landline and mobile phone.

“A lot of the alerts don’t apply to us, so I worked with the National Weather Service Fort Worth office meteorologists to figure out what alerts were best for us and which ones we should recommend to our citizens,” Muscle said. “Based on those recommendations from them, I went in and opened up the alerts for people to sign up. The ones that don’t apply to us are locked out.”

Everbridge features location-based weather alerts automatically sent by the National Weather Service and allows local emergency officials to issue alerts on non-weather topics like road closures, major accidents, water main issues and others.

“Our biggest push is getting people signed-up on Everbridge,” said Muscle, whose region includes Argyle, Bartonville, Copper Canyon, Corral City, Lantana and Northlake.

Chris Muscle, emergency management coordinator for the Argyle Fire District. (Photo by Mark Miller)

“We have all the landlines for residential and businesses, but that’s a small percentage of the population because so many people are only on cell phones. It’s a very, very good system. They can sign up multiple people in one household, multiple phone numbers and multiple emails.”

Users also can set-up quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. when they don’t receive any alerts, except tornado warnings. Or, they can designate some or all of the alerts among their favorites, which also will override the system.

Both Barth and Muscle said it’s also highly important to develop a home severe weather plan. This includes designating an area where family members will go in the event of severe weather; plus keeping a storm kit on hand. The kit should at least include a flashlight and batteries, weather radio, bottled water, a portable telephone/power charger and knowing where to find them.

“People should practice the plan or at least talk about the plan,” Barth said. “Make sure everyone knows the room to go to, which should be your lowest level, your most interior room with no windows. A lot of half-baths or pantry baths on the first floor or a powder room underneath the stairwell are the best, with stairwells in two-story houses the strongest area.”

Barth added it’s good to have a backup communications plan in case land lines and/or cell phones aren’t working.

“I’m a realist,” he said. “I don’t expect you to do duck and cover drills at home, but– if you’re not there and the kids are home alone– they get the notifications when significant weather is coming and they know where to shelter,” he said.

Though tornadoes are the most dangerous and damaging of the spring weather events, they are not the only ones. Straight-line winds and hail can cause personal injury from flying debris and ice chunks.

This is especially relevant when outdoors and Flower Mound’s outdoor warning system is another tool in the arsenal. It is activated for tornado warnings and straight-line winds of at least 70-miles per hour, hail of 1.25 inches in diameter or greater; even tight cloud formations.

The town currently has 19 sirens with three additional units expected to be online in the western end of town by the end of March. The sirens may be activated in small groups for a localized emergency or activated simultaneously for a town-wide emergency. The system is not intended to alert those who are inside a home, school or business.

There are no warning sirens in the Argyle Fire District, so text or phone notification alerts are essential.

When storms approach southern Denton County, both Barth and Muscle monitor all sources, including various radars, social media, storm spotters on amateur radio, traffic cameras and National Weather Service chat-rooms.

“It’s a good way to have real-time data so I can be proactive, instead of reactive, to an incident,” said Barth, whose town was recognized in 2014 as a “StormReady” community by the National Weather Service. “We try to be at least 10- to 20-minutes ahead of it.”

Argyle has a storm shelter database and anyone with a shelter should register it by emailing emergencymanagement@argylefire.com.

More details, including links to sign into the Everbridge system, are available at: www.flower-mound.com/fire and www.argylefire.com

So sign up for the alerts and keep your eye on the sky this spring.

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