Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

May 21, 2013

Excess volume stalls phone lines

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — As of Tuesday afternoon, more confusion apparently was caused by people trying to avoid storms and tornadoes than by any actual acts of nature.

In Jacksonville, a large amount of Jacksonville residents clogged up city lines asking to be placed on the CodeRED tornado warning system. These people could have placed themselves in the system by going online at www.ecnetwork.com/codered, a city emergency management official pointed out at a special Tuesday meeting.

Throughout Texas, it was even worse. The sheer volume of people trying to monitor a  statewide, telephonic, meeting reviewing weather and safety conditions crashed the system, forcing the meeting to be rescheduled, explained Jacksonville Fire Chief Paul White, the city's emergency management coordinator.

Tuesday afternoon, White led the aforementioned emergency management meeting with some 10 city officials in attendance — including City Manager Mo Raissi, Public Works Director Will Cole, and Police Chief Reece Daniel.

Together, they discussed the severity of the impending weather situation.

“The weather conditions are ripe for something bad to happen,” White said.

The group discussed storm issues of importance such as city communication, preparedness and supplies

It was noted that the city of Jacksonville on Tuesday was under  tornado watch until 10 p.m. (Some minor school events were cancelled Tuesday in anticipation of possible storms.)

The severity of the weather conditions forced city officials to consider scenarios such show to deal with downed trees — a specific concern of Police Chief Daniel's — as well as discussing the dangers of thwarted communication and bad travel conditions.

Cell phones, for instance, can be useless if cell towers are downed, so alternate means of communication such as radios were discussed. Because there might be limited access to fuel after a storm it is paramount to gas up vehicles ahead of time, Chief White said.

The city has a stockpile of “Meals Ready To Eat” as well as cots if they are needed in an emergency, they said.

Ultimately, if  electricity and communications cut out, city employees should automatically assume they need to report to work and gather at the police station, officials said.

A word of caution: Anyone who placed themselves on a “No Call” list cannot get emergency tornado notifications through their cell phones, one city official emphasized.