Guilford Emergency Managers Praise Automated Tornado Alert System

Apr 30, 2018

Debris and downed power lines block a after an EF-2 tornado hit eastern Greensboro on Apeil 15, 2018.
Credit Naomi Prioleau / WUNC

As Guilford County continues to recover from a tornado, Emergency Management Director Don Campbell is praising the automated software system that alerted residents by phone, text and email ahead of the twister.

The system is called GEANI and it costs about $150,000 per year to operate.

Related: Tornado Cleanup And Recovery Underway In Greensboro

GEANI is significantly cheaper than the millions it would cost to install and operate a system of warning sirens, and probably more effective, according to Campbell.

“Part of the challenge is that you've got to cover a large geographic area with a lot of really nice trees and foliage,” he said. “Guilford County is 644-square miles with varying topography, so the estimate has been anywhere between 100 and 300 sirens would be needed to cover the entire county to be able to make sure that you could hear the alerts.”

Campbell urges cell phone users to register their numbers with Guilford County Emergency Management to get public safety alerts.

The April 15 tornado whipped through Guilford County, killing a driver and destroying three schools.

GEANI distributes text alerts from the National Weather Service and local police department, and Campbell promises user data will remain private and will not be sold to telemarketers.

“The data is not shared with anybody, it's not publicly available data, and it does not get sold to telemarketers or any of those places,” he said. “It is truly for the notice of public safety notifications.”

Residents can register for flood, tornado and public safety warnings from GEANI at

Campbell says residents should follow their instincts and take cover, with or without a weather alert.

“If you see the clouds getting really dark, you see thunder and lightning, and you start seeing the winds picking up, it's time to go ahead and take your safety precautions at that point,” he said. “Don't necessarily wait for a watch and warning to be issued because as we know at some point technology may fail.”

Governor Roy Cooper is seeking a federal disaster declaration to help Guilford and Rockingham Counties tornado recovery efforts.