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Area residents frustrated with early morning phone call alert

By Matt Montgomery

Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson was sound asleep late Saturday night into Sunday morning when her phone abruptly went off. Usually when one gets a phone call like that late in the night, a friend’s in trouble or a love one has passed. Neither were the case.

Thomerson and every Piedmont resident who has a land line phone registered with the City of Piedmont got a CTY or a “Robo” call at about 1:40 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 24. The call was alerting residents to an impending blizzard that wasn’t even set to hit for at least another 24 hours after the phone call was made.

The second call Thomerson got was at about 1:48 a.m., from an irate neighbor asking about the phone call and why she got it if there was no imminent danger.

The Piedmont City Council originally approved an agreement at the January city council meeting to approve an unlimited use National Weather Service automated weather alerts service proposal from Blackboard Connect.

Piedmont City Councilman Charles Coffman said the original proposal was approved under the assumption that the automated system would trigger and alert residents when the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning.

He said the event that happened early Sunday morning was keyed off of the National Weather Service because there was a winter storm warning in effect for Canadian County.
The city has since spoken with Blackboard Connect and will make some alterations to the original proposal.

Coffman said he was frustrated to be woken up early in the morning.

“It was very irritating being woken up in a dead sleep,” Coffman said. “Then, after I realized what it was , then I realized every citizen in town is going to get the same wake up call.” Coffman said he fielded 20 phone calls from residents the next day.

He said one person called him complaining the “Robo” call woke up their baby and another said it messed up his sleeping schedule for work in the morning.

“I don’t blame them and I apologized to them,” he said.
“I told him we would look into and we had.”

The City of Piedmont told Coffman Tuesday that they had contacted Blackboard Connect and would
work out a solution with them.

He said it was his understanding that the City of Piedmont was going to work out a deal to restrict the alert calls to just tornado warnings. He said they would do it during the day from now on unless the City of Piedmont was in imminent danger from an impending tornado warning.

The next city council meeting is at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28 (today).

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