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Emergency sirens tested during statewide drill

Emergency management officials throughout Missouri prepared for spring storms by activating tornado sirens during a drill on Tuesday afternoon. We wanted to know if a tornado were to hit Boone County, would officials be able to react because the county has no official emergency management director right now. The 911 center is also undermanned.

They tell ABC 17 News they’re constantly updating the emergency plans and making tweaks here and there. But the problem may not be in the plans; it may be the manpower in the 911 center. Emergency officials tell us it doesn’t take too much to overwork the system.

911 officials tell us when they know there’s a storm coming in they will bring in extra workers. That’s because they know they’re in a tight position on any given day. They say there are a maximum of 14 calls that can come in at once. But if more than that roll in, which is sure to happen when there is a storm, they have to start picking and choosing what calls they take.

Some tell us being undermanned it does make their job harder, especially during something like a tornado.

“The folks in the room it taxes them a little bit more, basically having one call taker that actually limits the number of phone calls we can take otherwise it roll over to a dispatcher,” 911 worker Brian Maydwell explains.

The other problem is the interim EMA director is also the Boone County Fire Protection District chief. When a storm rolls through, he will have to leave that position in order to become the emergency management leader. We asked if that would cause any problems with directing whoever needs to do what.

“That’s why we do an emergency operations plan, that basically describes what each person’s job is in a disaster, so that’s why we do that ahead of time so there isn’t going to be an issue,” EMA spokeswoman Martina Pounds says.

Emergency officials say no matter how much they prepare or how many people are working that day, if a storm like Joplin rolls through, there isn’t going to be much they can do.

911 officials say another struggle they’re running into is the equipment. They tell us it’s breaking down and replacement parts are hard to find.

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