1. What is the difference between a FEMA shelter and a SAFER PLACE?

The purpose of the Safer Place Program in Etowah County is to facilitate the opening of pre-designated areas for citizens seeking a safer place prior to and during severe weather conditions. The Safer Place Program is not intended for long-term opening of a building. Instead the intent of the program is to provide a safer place (not safe, as in a FEMA approved Safe Room), for individuals to seek shelter during severe weather (tornado, extreme cold or extreme heat). The safer place locations are not advertised as “tornado shelters” or “safe rooms” but as a location of last resort for those who need a safer place to stay prior to and during a severe weather event.

2. Where is the closest tornado shelter  or Safer Place to me?

Your closest tornado shelter or Safer Place can be found at www.shelteretowah.com.

3.What is the safest place in a tornado?

There are several things to keep in mind when choosing your severe weather safe place. You want to be on the lowest floor, interior room – putting as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Stay away from doors and windows. Be sure to have on heavy soled shoes and have a whistle or airhorn with you in case you are trapped in debris.

4. What is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?

A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado within the watch area. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted or has been indicated by radar.

5. When do the local tornado shelters open?

Etowah County storm shelters and safe havens open whenever a tornado watch is issued. Once the watch is issued, shelter managers are notified by the Emergency Management Agency to open and remain open until either the threat passes or the watch expires. You can monitor which shelters are open via www.shelteretowah.com.

6. Why didn’t I hear the tornado siren close to my house during the tornado warning last night?

Don’t depend on tornado sirens as your first line of defense. They are intended to warn people who are outdoors to go inside and get further weather information. You will not hear the tornado siren inside your home during the middle of the night. Also, the National Weather Service issues tornado warnings based on polygons. The only time a siren sounds is if that location is within the polygon.

7. Do I really need a weather radio?

The short answer? Yes. Everyone needs a weather radio at work and at home. You need multiple ways to receive weather information – smartphone apps, a dependable television weather source, or Alert Etowah are just a few of the options available to the public.

8. I am not sure how to program my new weather radio. What do I do?

Bring the weather radio to the EMA offices located at 4610 Airport Road and we will be glad to program it for you.

9. I keep hearing about AlertEtowah. What is it?

AlertEtowah is a citizen mass notification system used solely by the Gadsden/Etowah County EMA. The EMA uses the system to provide vital weather advisories, watches, warnings, and other information that might be a threat to citizens. To learn more, go here.

10. I was already signed up for Nixle, do I have to now sign up for AlertEtowah?

If you were signed up for Nixle, your information has been imported into AlertEtowah. The only reason you would need to register is if you want to control what alerts you receive and what you don’t. You can learn more by going here.

11. I heard on the radio that all the roads in Etowah County are closed due to the snow. Is that true?

Etowah County roads are never closed due to the actions that act requires. Roads, however, can be deemed impassable and travel discouraged. If your travel is not an emergency, it is best to avoid travel in winter weather situations.

12. I heard that the roads in Etowah County are closed due to ____________, can you call my boss and tell them I can’t come to work or I need to be dismissed early?

No. We cannot do that. In regards to closed roads, please see item 10 above.

13. Should I open my business today due to the threat of severe or winter weather or should I close early?

We cannot make that decision for you. We can provide you with the latest information we receive directly from the National Weather Service office in Birmingham for you to decide the best option for you.

14. When will you be deciding if you are closing schools today due to the weather?

The Emergency Management Agency does not make the decision on school closures or delays. Each local school board superintendent makes the decision on closures or delays. Once we receive notification directly from the superintendents, we post the information to social media.

15. I have bought a piece of property that does not have an address. I was told to call the EMA to get an address for it.

The EMA does not assign addresses. That is through Etowah County 911. You can contact the business office at 256-442-2312 regarding this request.

16. I keep hearing about this Spring Break Preparedness event. What is it?

Every year during spring break, the EMA hosts an event in downtown Gadsden to encourage students to take a proactive role in disaster preparedness. For more information on this year’s event, contact Breonna Cole, Emergency Management Specialist here.

17. I have tried calling your office and keep getting transferred from extension to extension. How do I reach the EMA directly?

Our direct dial number is 256-549-4575. For emergencies, please call 911 or your local dispatch center and they can contact the EMA duty officer who is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.

18. Who do I need to call if someone has illegally dumped chemicals, fuel, oil, etc.?

The best course of action is to contact 911. They can then make a determination on the hazard the materials pose and notify the correct agencies.

19. I am concerned about the Covid-19 Virus. How can I get more information on preparedness?

We have an infectious disease update page where you can get up-to-date information. Go to www.gecema.com and click the red bar at the top of the screen for the most current numbers. For preparedness information, go to www.gecema.com and click the yellow tab in the middle of the screen.

20. I am getting married in June at an outdoor venue. Can you tell me if:

  • The weather will be hot?
  • It will be raining?
  • It will be filled with mosquitoes?
  • A tornado threat will happen?
  • I need to choose another date for the wedding?

The simple answer is no to all of these. And, yes, these are all questions we have received in the past. The best we can do is provide what information we are given by the National Weather Service 3-5 days in advance of a particular event and wish you luck and longevity with your nuptials.