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Remembering the Summer of 2008

Recovery to Resilience: Beginning of Disaster 1763

It began on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend - May 25, 2008. At 4:48 p.m. an EF-5 tornado formed and ripped across 43 miles of Butler and Black Hawk counties in Iowa. It was to be the beginning of the worst disaster season the state had ever faced, with more than $2 billion in damage from storms, tornadoes, and flooding. In this video, Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management staff recall the events surrounding the "Parkersburg tornado."




Text-to-911 logo: Call if you can, text if you can'tFor the past few years, HSEMD and its many telecommunications vendors and several wireless providers have worked diligently to upgrade Iowa's 911 network to an Internet Protocol (IP)-based system. The improved system, which is more robust and capable of handling new messaging technology, is now 98 percent complete. HSEMD, vendors, and wireless providers continue to work aggressively toward 100-percent statewide Text-to-911 capability.

Click here to read more about 911 Education Month


Though the state's 911 centers will have the ability to accept text messages, Blake DeRouchey, Iowa's 911 program manager stresses the preferred method of requesting assistance is to call.


"A voice call is generally faster than sending a text message, and important follow-up questions can be asked by the 911 call taker so that emergency responders have a better understanding of the situation," DeRouchey said. "However, we recognize there are instances where it isn't always possible to make that voice call, and that's where Text-to-911 comes in. Call if you can, text if you can't."


DeRouchey also wants to make clear that not all mobile carriers have or will be providing this capability to its customers. Currently, six cell phone carriers in Iowa have committed to making Text-to-911 available to customers: AT&T, i-Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.


"Some smaller regional and prepaid companies may also be able to provide Text-to-911," he noted. "You may want to contact your wireless provider if you have questions on its availability."


Text-to-911 was developed primarily for citizens who are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech impaired. Texting can be used in situations in which a voice call to 911 would endanger the caller, such as during a home invasion or domestic abuse situation. Sending a text to 911 can also be helpful in situations in which a medical condition makes it impossible for the caller to speak. Eventually, Iowa’s IP-based 911 network will also eventually allow citizens to contact 911 using video and picture messaging, although that is much further down the road.

Important 911 takeaways

  • Only call in an emergency
  • Keep calm and know your location (this is the first question the 911 call taker will ask you)
  • Don't let your kids play with cell phones (phones no longer in use are still capable of calling 911)
  • Teach your kids the correct way to use 911
  • NEVER hang up on a 911 call until the operator indicates it is OK to so, even if you dial 911 by accident

Public education tools and resources for 911 education are also available on the Know 911 website. Information will also be available on HSEMD social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, throughout the month using hashtag #911education. Text-to-911 fliers and answers to frequently asked questions about Text-to-911 are also available on the HSEMD website.





Photo of storm over farm.


Click here to report severe weather and storm damage in your area.