Fire Chief: More should take advantage of weather alerts

At a time of year when severe weather is a serious threat in Middle Tennessee, Hendersonville Fire Chief Scotty Bush encouraged residents to sign up for Code Red, the city’s mass notification system.

No injuries were reported in an early morning storm that roared across Sumner County on Tuesday downing trees and power lines, briefly disrupting power at three area schools and delaying some school buses.

In Hendersonville, there were reports of heavy wind and rain damage including a tree limb that snapped and fell on a home on Marshall Street, a trampoline that landed on a porch in another part of town, and a downed power line, according to Hendersonville Fire Chief Scotty Bush.

Sumner County EMA Director Ken Weidner said the situation was similar throughout the county, including a tornado sighting in the Station Camp area between Gallatin and Hendersonville. There were no reports of damage from that incident, Weidner added.

Power was restored at William Burrus Elementary School before the school opened for the day, according to Sumner County Schools Spokesperson Jeremy Johnson. At White House High School and Knox Doss Middle School, students and teachers were without electricity for about an hour before it was restored.

The storm hit after some school buses started rolling at 5:30 a.m. Johnson said the buses that were carrying about 50 to 60 students were immediately instructed to go to the closest school where students were shepherded inside until the storm passed.

“We knew there was a chance of severe thunderstorms but it wasn’t until buses were on the road that they issued a tornado warning,” said Johnson. “It just happened so quickly.”

The storm came a week after Bush reminded citizens that they can receive alerts of severe weather and other emergencies by signing up for Code Red, a citywide web and phone-based mass notification system.

“We’re not really satisfied with the numbers we’re looking at – who’s taking advantage of this,” Bush said during a presentation to the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen on April 27.

Residents can register to receive notifications of severe or inclement weather, gas leaks, police activity, fire emergencies, missing persons, etc. by either telephone message, text message or email, noted Bush.

Bush showed people how to sign up for the alerts by going to the city’s website at www.hvilletn.org.

Those who have trouble signing up may come to either the Hendersonville Police Department at 3 Executive Park Drive, Fire Station #1, 173 Luna Lane or Fire Station #3, 179 Bonita Parkway on Saturday, May 8 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. for assistance. On Saturday, May 15, the police department, Fire Station #4, 511 Indian Lake Road and Fire Station #5, 1166 Forest Retreat Road will be open for assistance from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Bush said the fire department may reach out to residents in other ways like partnering with the city’s parks department or the Hendersonville Samaritan Association in order to encourage registration.

During a March 10, 2020 Public Safety meeting, Bush noted that just 1,098 residents are signed up to receive Code Red weather-related notifications, and just 4,000 residents – roughly 7 percent of the city’s population — are signed up to receive any Code Red notifications. Updated numbers were not available by this newspaper’s deadline.

During that same March, 2020 meeting — after a tornado struck East Nashville on March 3 — Ward 1 Alderwoman Peg Petrelli and Ward 3 Alderwoman Arlene Cunningham asked that the city explore the use of tornado sirens.

Both alderwomen said on Tuesday that they would still like to see the city look into the issue.

City leaders have debated the need for tornado sirens for years – including after Hendersonville was hit by a tornado in 2006 and a historic flood in 2010.

“I’ve felt strongly about it since I took office,” said Cunningham. “Just to have that extra layer of protection – it’s really something I’d like to see us look more into.”

Petrelli said the issue was put on the back burner after COVID-19 hit in late March.

“With as conservative of (a) budget we had last year, we knew it wasn’t a possibility,” she said. “But I would like to see a more thorough discussion. I want them, but it’s going to take some research.”

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