Storm System Alerts Westlake Residents Through Text

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WESTLAKE-- "The storms last week were so bad that I kept waiting to hear a tornado siren," said Lori Jolliffe, who lives on Whitehill Circle in Westlake.

But Jolliffe, a mother of three, got silence.

And while surrounding communities like Avon and Avon Lake got a tornado siren, the city of Westlake got a tornado text.

"I was confused. Westlake does so many wonderful things and I love living here. But I was surprised to find out they weren't involved with some sort of emergency alert system," said Jolliffe.

"Several years ago, we did look at that option, reviewed the cost, what it would take to put that system in place," said Larry Surber, the assistant director of purchasing for the city of Westlake.

According to Surber, the cons of a tornado siren outweighed the price.

"The testing, you have to do that monthly. So people don't think when you are testing it's a real tornado, when indeed it's not. The other issue we've found is sometimes, depending on what you are doing inside your home, you can't hear it," said Surber.

So instead, Westlake initiated the Nixle system.

It's a text alert for people who sign up.

"We found the texting system with everybody having smartphones today being a good way to reach the masses in the community," added Surber.

"Is that system efficient? I don't think so. Because people got it at six in the evening and it didn't even do a follow-up later when it got really scary," said Jolliffe.

Jolliffe suggested the city consider a reverse 911 system to help those with landlines.

"Concerning the reverse 911 idea, it's the time it takes to communicate to all the residents. Westlake has 14,000 residents; so with smartphone technology, we are able to reach the masses, quicker," said Surber.