Leaders reflect two years after Kokomo tornado

KOKOMO, Ind. – Two years after a tornado ripped through Kokomo, leaders say they are better prepared to deal with severe weather events.

While much of the damage from the August 24, 2016 tornado has been repaired, the lessons from that day helped spur changes at the Howard County Emergency Management Agency,

The EF3 tornado left homes without roofs, shattered windows and even flattened a Starbucks.

"It was very chaotic at that time," said Scott Comfort, public information officer for Howard County EMA.

He said the 911 dispatch center was overloaded while trying to respond to numerous calls about power lines down and other damage. Additionally, dispatchers were also involved in communications among emergency crews and those out in the field tracking storms.

"Our communications and coordination was probably the biggest challenge we had at the time," Comfort said.

Since then, they have altered their communications system. First responded are now on the same channel for their radio system in order to alleviate the burden on 911 dispatchers.

"All that traffic that was handled by dispatch is now handled by the Emergency Operations Center," Comfort said.

The operations center itself has also undergone changes since the most recent storms this spring. A wall in the center was torn down and the workflow among those stationed there was revamped.

"We’ve now redesigned the emergency operations center to better communicate among ourselves in a more efficient way to be able to warn the public with much quicker response," Comfort said.