TROUP COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) – The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency partners with the National Weather Service every year to encourage Georgia residents to understand threats of severe weather and prepare accordingly during Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

This year, WRBL sat down with officials in Troup County to discuss emergency protocols following the Jan. 12 tornado that left multiple people injured on the south side of LaGrange.

The Emergency Management Director for Troup County, Zac Steele, said getting regular updates from both the National Weather Service and local meteorologists is key in keeping Troup County residents safe.

“We monitor it and try to isolate the areas of the county and make sure those people are taking protective action as well as, start making long-term response plans,” said Steele.

The county leaders get phone calls in about five minute intervals from the National Weather Service where severe weather is a possibility that assists in determining where the potential damage will be.

Steele said officials begin watching tornadoes closely as soon as a tornado watch is released. He said that during the tornado watch on Jan. 12, officials were given an estimated time of arrival and that is when they decided on an immediate shelter in place.

He said citizens are always notified are via social media in the event of a possible tornado. Several official social media pages belonging to the city and county organizations post warnings and updates. Tornado sirens are also activated throughout the county at the time of a tornado watch.

During severe weather, Steele and several other officials gather in the Emergency Operation Center and determine which areas need first responders immediately after the storm.

“In the Emergency Operation Center they can start triaging some of these calls and dispatching the best they can and prioritizing what they can. They know where units will be closer and it helps us get resources quicker to some of these places,” said Steele.

Steele said quick response times are essential in ensuring the safety of citizens.

“It’s very important to make sure that we’re getting all of the resources to the right places in the right amount of time,” said Steele.