Questions answered about weather alerts

Published on June 08, 2021

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We have received several questions related to how weather alerts are activated and disbursed. Hopefully this explanation will help, but if you have questions, please reach out to jfinch@weldgov.com.

What is CodeRED?

CodeRED is the program the county uses for emergency alerts and notifications related to local public safety situations (think active shooter, accident scene, or bridge washout). The program allows for targeted messages to go to an area of the county impacted by the situation. Law enforcement and our Office of Emergency Management are authorized to initiate a CodeRED alert.

CodeRED offers an option to push out weather alerts from the National Weather Service as well, but the user must proactively select that option as it is not automatic when a person registers. Any National Weather Service alert is relayed through the CodeRED system if a person registered with CodeRED has opted in to get those alerts. This is why each spring the county urges the public to sign up for the weather alerts.

The county does not initiate weather alerts through CodeRED; CodeRED relays weather alerts directly from the National Weather Service.

All Weld County landlines are automatically entered into the CodeRED system. The county encourages residents and business owners within Weld County to register their cell phones with the CodeRED system as well (and opt in to receiving National Weather Service alerts).

 

What is IPAWS?

IPAWS is a Federal system through FEMA that is used to alert people of an emergency in their area (think Amber Alert or National Weather Service alert).

 

What is the difference between CodeRED and IPAWS?

There are a few key differences between the CodeRED system and the IPAWS system. CodeRED is based off of physical addresses (and associated landlines if they exist) and cell phone numbers registered in the system. When a CodeRED alert goes out, dispatch draws the impacted area on a map within the system and the system sends the alert message to landlines and registered cellphones associated with an address in that boundary area.

IPAWS is based off of cell phone towers around a given area. Where CodeRED is targeted messaging based on users and addresses, IPAWS is targeted messaging based off of a physical area and uses the wireless emergency alert system to notify cell phones within that area.

CodeRED = landlines, registered cell phones, physical addresses. Target audience is people who live and work in Weld County (people with landlines and who registered their cell phones)

IPAWS = cell phones, general area. Target audience is anyone within that physical area (people who live and work in Weld County as well as people who are traveling through or visiting Weld County).

The National Weather Service uses IPAWS and the Emergency Alert System (weather radio) to send weather alert information.

 

Does the county have IPAWS?

Yes, the county is approved to use IPAWS but only for specific instances, which do not include weather alerts. Only the National Weather Service is approved to send weather alerts (such as tornado watches and warnings) through the IPAWS system.

 

I didn’t get a weather alert on CodeRED.

First, please make sure you have opted in to receive the relayed National Weather Alert messages through CodeRED. If you did not receive a weather alert, it is likely that you were not in the path or area impacted by the weather event. That may sound strange given the fact you could see the tornado yesterday from just about everywhere, but the tornado was in a specific area of the county and was not a threat to other areas of the county nor was the weather system (it wasn’t a severe thunderstorm or supercell like we traditionally see).

 

What about tornado sirens?

Tornado sirens are designed to alert people who are working/playing outside of an immediate weather threat. Not all communities in Weld County have tornado sirens. Sirens are just one tool that can be used to warn people of a weather emergency.

 

So how can I make sure I am aware of a weather threat?

There are many tools in our toolbox when it comes to situational awareness and weather. First, keep your eyes to the sky. Tornadoes in the spring along the Front Range are not new. In fact, Weld County has more tornadoes than any other county in the country (because of our size and local geography). Keep your awareness high when skies darken. Take a weather spotting class so you know what you are looking for, and have a plan for weather-related emergencies.

Apps are great tools for weather awareness: news apps, weather apps, radar apps, but they are just that – tools. Download them to your phone, but know each of their limitations. An alert from an app will provide you information, but should also indicate to you that you need to tune in to local news (web, TV, radio) for up-to-date information.

The best tool you can have is probably a good old-fashioned weather radio. A weather radio, programmed for the areas you choose, will warn you not only of severe weather in your area but also in your surrounding area allowing you to learn what weather may be coming toward your location from somewhere else.  

 

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