Breckenridge Texan

City, County encourage Code Red sign-ups as storm season approaches

City, County encourage Code Red sign-ups as storm season approaches
March 12
14:17 2020

As the tornado siren on top of the Breckenridge fire station wailed loudly across downtown last Friday, March 6, morning, County Judge Michael Roach and Precinct 3 County Commissioner Will Warren stood on the roof of the Stephens County Courthouse to observe the scene below. The blasting siren was part of a simulation of the county and city’s emergency tornado warning system.

A few minutes earlier, a CodeRED test message text warning went out at 10 a.m. from the dispatch center at the Breckenridge Law Enforcement Center, announcing that an emergency test was underway. At the same time, a fire truck left the fire station with its siren blaring a long wailing tone that is used as a tornado warning. Roach and Warren watched as the truck slowly snaked its way north through the nearby the neighborhood, warning residents about the simulated test.

Additionally, the Hubbard Creek Volunteer Fire Department sent out fire trucks on Tanglewood Island with their sirens wailing, as part of the simulation.

Communication error

For the most part, the test went as planned, Roach said. However there was one glitch. When the dispatcher tried to remotely activate the fire station siren, it did not work.

According to Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney, the dispatcher tried twice to activate the siren with the radio signal but it didn’t work, so they went ahead and activated it manually at the fire station.

Once the siren did go off, another fire truck that had been staged at the intersection of Elm Street and North Breckenridge Avenue headed north with its siren wailing.

Chaney said they have an internal problem with the signal and they’re going to have somebody look at it. However, he said, they were still able to activate the siren manually at the fire station, which is the way it’s been done in past years.

He said the siren has two signals, a long wailing signal that is used as a tornado warning and a short yelp that was used  in the past to notify firefighters when there was a house or a structure fire. “That was all done before cell phones,” Chaney said.

According to Chaney, the siren is around 100 years old and has been on top of the fire station since about 1921 when the building was built. He said it had been about three years since the siren was last tested.

During an actual emergency, Chaney said, in addition to the two fire trucks running the warning routes, there would also be fire trucks at the fire station standing by to handle emergency calls.

Roach said they have notified the county’s information technology department about the communication error to see what the problem is and see if they need replace a piece of equipment.

“So, we’ll get that fixed ASAP,” he said. “Meanwhile, if something did happen, we’ll ask them to set it (the siren) off manually at fire station.”

He said they typically have radar and alerts from the weather service to notify them in time to set it off manually.

Police, Sheriff and City storm spotters

In an actual storm emergency, there will also be police and sheriff department vehicles that are staged in different areas around the city and county as storm spotters.

According to Police Chief Bacel Cantrell, police officers will be set up in different areas of the city as storm spotters. If there is an actual storm and the sirens are going off, he said, his officers at wherever location they are at will blast their sirens using the long, wailing warning pattern, so that people in that area will know to take immediate shelter.

Cantrell said, normally, long before the Code Red message is sent out and the siren downtown is set off, they are already monitoring bad weather situations and have their officers in place when storm spotters are called for. He said they usually have officers located in different areas of town, depending on which way the storm is coming from.

Chaney said firefighters do not go out into the county as storm spotters during bad weather because they stay stationary in case they are needed for rescue-type operations during the bad weather.

In addition to police officers, Stephens County Sheriff’s deputies and City of Breckenridge employees are also used as storm spotters.


One part of the emergency simulation that worked very well during the simulation, according to Roach, was the CodeRED text warnings that were sent out.  He said the great thing about the CodeRED system is that people can get the warning, even if they can’t hear the sirens.

“What I did hear with this drill the other day, folks have said to me and on our Facebook page is ‘I didn’t hear it (the sirens) where I was at, but I did get a text message,’” Roach said.

CodeRED is an emergency notification system that government agencies can use to alert residents about some type of an emergency situation. Automated calls or text messages are sent to cell phones, home phones and/or email addresses.

Stephens County and the City of Breckenridge are going to make a strong effort to encourage people to sign up for the CodeRED alerts, Roach said.

There’s no charge to sign up for the CodeRED alerts, and local residents can sign up to receive the CodeRED text alerts on either the City or County’s web sites.

Roach said other than the small issue they had with the siren communication error, he feels like the test went pretty well and everything else worked okay. He said even though they had that problem they were still able to get the siren to go manually.

He added officials are fortunate that they discovered the communication problem during a test on a sunny day so they can get it fixed in case of a real emergency in the future.

Story by Tony Pilkington Breckenridge Texan


Cutline, top photo: Stephens County Precinct 3 County Commissioner Will Warren, right,  and County Judge Michael Roach watch from the top of the Stephens County Courthouse as emergency workers respond during an emergency simulation in downtown Breckenridge. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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