Abilene tornado drill demonstrates how CodeRED notifications can help save lives

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Abilene residents may have heard alerts go off on their phones Wednesday morning as part of the city’s tornado drill.

In Abilene, the city uses the CodeRED system instead of sirens, which is something Rick Tomlin thought he’d never use — until he did.

It’s a day Tomlin says he’ll never forget, May 18, 2019.

“I got up from the couch, opened this front door and I heard the tornado,” said Tomlin.

Tomlin says he was asleep minutes before, woken up not by the weather or the sirens, but instead, two calls from the CodeRED system.

“From the point I had gotten the phone call, ’til the time that it hit, ’til the time it was just over was five minutes,” said Tomlin.

Tomlin signed up for the system in 2007 and says it helped warn both him and his wife during the storm.

“I don’t want to overstate the fact that CodeRED saved my life or my wife’s life, but it definitely safeguarded us,” said Tomlin.

City of Abilene Emergency Management Coordinator Vincent Cantu says the system is a step toward the next generation of weather alerts.

“We’ll let folks know, ‘These are some actions you might want to take, this is what’s impending,'” said Cantu.

The challenge, he says, is getting people to sign up for the service.

Residents are not automatically enrolled, but can do so on AbileneTX.gov, hit the CodeRED button and fill out the sign up sheet.

“While we have the time to prepare during blue sky days, it’s really good to think things through,” said Cantu.

CodeRED is not just used for tornado warnings, it has also been used during the pandemic and Abilene’s recent winter storm.

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