Bedford County is first to have county-wide tornado shelter program

(Photo: WKRN)

BEDFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Bedford County is the first in Tennessee to create a county-wide tornado shelter program.

The Bedford County Emergency Management Agency started the program in 2007 and has since grown to include 13 tornado shelters.

Each shelter is actually a church that’s typically older and with a basement, something 90 percent of residents don’t have.

(Photo: WKRN)

The EMA also wants to give back to their community, and this is a great way to do it.

So how does this program start? Well, the shelters will only be opened if there looks to be a tornado threat and they have at least 30 minutes of lead time.

Scott Johnson, director, is the one who makes the call. He looks at the radar, the National Weather Service Chatroom for damage reports, and listens to News 2– and with all that information, he then decides to open the shelter.

(Photo: WKRN)

Johnson also calls the 911 center that relays the message to the fire departments of Bedford County and Shelbyville.

They all have keys to the churches and they go to each one to open them. At the same time, they call church volunteers to meet them there.

Meanwhile, a local radio station is then broadcasting that the shelters are open and residents can start filing in.

This all takes under 20 minutes, but it does require a lot of coordination. Johnson and Chief Thomas, of the Bedford County Fire Department do believe it is worth it and think the program has saved lives.