Phone warning system to continue

Foreboding clouds preceded storms the evening of Thursday, May 26. The Franklin County Department of Emergency Services used its phone alerting system for the first time to notify residents of a tornado warning. The National Weather Service confirmed that an F-1 tornado touched down in Guilford Township at 6:10 p.m. The DES processed 150 calls for assistance. Several businesses in the center of the county reported damage, and trees went down all over Franklin County. The Chambersburg and Mercersburg areas sustained the most damage, including power outages.

While Franklin County is prone to a wide variety of weather-related emergencies, there have been relatively few tornadoes in the county. Since 1974, only six confirmed tornadoes have been recorded. Historically, tornadoes in Franklin County have been short lived, which makes identifying that there is a tornado and issuing warnings in a timely manner difficult for the weather service.

While there is always a chance of a tornado, the probability is relatively low, according to the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services. Officials say the county will be continuing to utilize the South Central Alert System, the telecommunications alerting system, for tornado warnings, due to the short notice involved, similar to last week.  This system will give immediate warning and information on how to react, thereby improving response in an emergency.

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado may be imminent. This will allow the department to relay information directly to telephones and other telecommunications devices.  The system does not take the place of listening to radio and television during periods of expected bad weather.  The department also recommends that citizens utilize NOAA weather radio, as it is the quickest means for learning that a tornado warning has been issued, for information on all hazardous weather.

When the department relays a tornado warning, it will include the expected areas impacted and immediate action to be taken to improve safety.  The ability to relay specific information, including impacted areas and immediate safety actions, was a driving force to using the system.  The Department determined that tornado activity presented the greatest, short warning incident.  The Department will not routinely utilize the system for other weather related events due to the ability of residents to receive timely information through normal news sources.

The South Central Alert System utilizes data contained in the White Pages. The Department of Emergency Services encourages anyone who would like to add additional contact sources to visit the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services website,, and sign up under the South Central Alert icon, located on the left side.  For more information on the system or to learn more about preparedness and what to do in an emergency, contact the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services at (717)264-2813 or visit,