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Polk County couple talks severe weather preps with limited tech

Smartphone apps, the internet and texts are how many people receive severe weather alerts. But what happens if you don't have access to that technology?

DES MOINES, Iowa — It seems like severe weather can strike at any time, and you may have heard Local 5 say things like "be sure to download the We Are Iowa app" during a newscast.

That might be a handy tip unless you're in a situation like Josh and Lelah Swallow.

"I don't have a cell phone. I have a landline," Lelah said.

Unlike many people, getting severe weather alerts through an app or text alert isn't at the Swallows. But like everyone, the Des Moines couple still needs to know as soon as possible that a tornado could be on the way.

"How much warning do I want for me in a wheelchair to try to get to the stairwell of my home because we can't make it to the basement?" Lelah said.

Polk County Emergency Management said a big part of their job is getting information out.

"But the other end of that is the ability to receive that information. National research shows that 97% of the population has a mobile device," A.J. Mumm, director of Polk County Emergency Management.

While the tornado warning gives people an average of 15 minutes to prepare, a watch buys more time.

"Have a friend or a family member that knows that you may need information and during that period of a watch that they give you a call if you still have that landline," Mumm said.

Weather alert radios, while less common, can also be a great option.

"A lot of times our cell phones, they may be that they're charging or we silence them at night," said Mumm. "There's just some advantages to having a weather alert radio that can alert us almost like an alarm clock activated by the National Weather Service."

That's what the swallows rely on.

"I think that's why we're a little more prepared for tornadoes and any emergencies," Josh said.

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