Detective Larry Bundy of the Pinetops Police Department was on duty the night a tornado swept over Pinetops.
"The winds were extremely high, the rain was coming down extremely heavy, we [heard] over the scanner that a tornado was coming, heading this way," he says.
"Our pagers were set off, and we were actually notified of it, [that] the tornado was already here," says Fire Chief Steve Buress.
Buress knew the town needed to buy time for residents the next time a tornado came their way.
"We're not going to change the weather patterns or change the weather, but it is something we felt we could do to save some lives," says Buress.
At the cost of less than $500, Pinetops installed a tornado warning system using the existing siren at the town's fire department.
The system is triggered by the police dispatcher when a tornado warning is sent out by theNational Weather Service.
Very few towns in the state have citywide systems like this, but there are other ways to be warned aboutsevere weather.
Eric Tolbert, director ofNorth Carolina Emergency Management, recommends every household should have aweather radio.
"It has an alert tone that will wake you up even if it goes off at night," says Tolbert.
Tolbert says the radios are especially important since most tornadoes hit during the dark -- like the 1988 tornado that devastated Raleigh.
"We wish they became as common around North Carolinas a smoke detector," says Tolbert.
Right now, the N.C. Emergency Management is installing 14,000 weather radios throughout the state in schools, senior centers, day care facilities and communication centers.