Johnson County residents concerned over test message from county alert system

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OLATHE, Kan. -- You'd think a severe weather alert system that hits your cell or even your home phone would be the same on both sides of the state line.

Not so.

The emergency operations center in Johnson County, Kansas conducted a test of its community notification system on Tuesday, sending a text message to local people. Many of whom had registered to receive emergency weather notifications. It was only a test, but it caught some people's attentions.

Johnson County Master Sheriff's Deputy Jill Koch says the message was part of an annual test, which showed the system is working fine.

"We know that some people got calls and they didn't know they were part of our system," Koch said. "They didn't know they would be notified. That's how that happened."

Johnson County uses a public alert system called Notify JoCo. It enables people to 'opt in' and register for a wide range of alerts ranging from police activity to weather warnings.

"If you want to receive notifications about weather, then you can do so," Koch said. "You can choose it. You can tailor it to what you want to hear from your government."

On the Missouri side, Gene Shepherd manages the KCMO Emergency Ops Center. He says the city uses a system called Nixle, which doesn't issue weather related warnings. For those, Shepherd points to a number of mobile apps that directly inform users.

"They automatically come from the National Weather Service," Shepherd said. "Unless you opt out of that, you would be alerted. That's a useful tool, and in the future, we see that becoming more and more common."

Shepherd says technology related to those warning apps changes constantly. He says many of them are useful, but he recommends using more than one means of notification to make certain you stay safe.

Click here for Notify JoCo website.

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