FAIRMONT - While the CodeRed warning system has been used the past few years to alert residents to emergencies and severe weather warnings, the Martin County Sheriff's Office recently added winter storm warnings to the list of notifications the system can provide.
"We're hoping this will be the last time this season we need it," said Capt. Corey Klanderud on Thursday morning. At the time, the area was under a winter storm warning lasting until 7 p.m. this evening.
Martin County added CodeRed in 2012, allowing area residents to be alerted to emergencies and severe weather warnings. Users can receive phone calls, emails or text messages for the alerts.
"People need to sign up to receive the alerts," Klanderud explained. "When they sign up, they automatically get the emergencies, but they need to select what weather alerts they want. We can also send out general notifications, but we've never done that. We don't want to inundate people with stuff that isn't important."
The severe weather warnings residents can choose to receive alerts for include tornado, severe thunderstorm and flash flood warnings. Klanderud said the addition of winter storm warnings is only available in text and e-mail notifications, while the other weather warnings include phone notifications.
"Right now, we have 6,834 users registered on the system, and of those about half - 3,724 - are signed up for weather warnings," Klanderud said.
Those who want to receive the winter storm warnings by text or e-mail will need to log on to the CodeRed website and sign up for them.
"It's up to the individual user," Klanderud said. "Even though winter is winding down, we would encourage people to go in and make the decision, especially with severe weather season ahead."
Last year saw little severe weather action for Martin County.
"The last time we had an emergency notification was July 2012 for an area northwest of Ceylon," Klanderud said. "The trouble is when it's not used, you forget what options are out there. As things change, we have new people come into the area, and they may not be aware of the options we have."
The last severe weather notification went out to 2,200 registered users for a severe thunderstorm warning on June 23.
"There were 2,800 attempts, but only 2,200 actual contacts were made," Klanderud said.
Klanderud said they would like to do another test callout of the system before severe weather season gets under way.
"We're considering it to redefine the data base, clean out old numbers and reaching the people that want to be reached," he said. "If we do this, we want it to be before severe weather season. We don't want to alarm people."
Residents can enroll in CodeRed or update their account online for free at www.co.martin.mn.us and clicking on the link for the Sheriff's Office page. Those who do not have Internet access can register for CodeRed by filling out a form available at the Sheriff's Office at the law enforcement center in Fairmont.