WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Middle Tennessee animal shelter is now the first in the U.S. to be designated as a StormReady Supporter facility by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

According to the Williamson County Animal Center (WCAC), StormReady is “a program for entities that demonstrate weather safety and preparedness by meeting criteria established by the National Weather Service (NWS) and local emergency management agencies.”

Officials said Supporter facilities develop weather preparedness plans, including the ability and means to receive warning notifications and communicate advisories, as well as dependable sheltering locations and hazardous weather response planning.

The WCAC said its staff staff worked closely with Jason B. Wright, who lives in Franklin but works as senior meteorologist for the NWS Office in Nashville, to complete the application process.

The new center opened on Grigsby Hayes Court in Franklin just over a year ago, but WCAC’s staff has already implemented portions of the preparedness plan on several occasions, according to officials.

“It was such a relief to have all the pieces in place when they were needed,” said Ondrea Johnson, WCAC’s director. “Within seconds of receiving the warnings on our weather radio, we were able to use our intercom system, which includes outdoor speakers, to alert our guests, volunteers and staff. Everyone was in the building, in the safe spots in just a matter of minutes.”

By taking the steps needed to earn the StormReady Supporter designation, Johnson reportedly believes it makes the animal center safer for the thousands of visitors each year, as well as the animals in WCAC’s care.

“Public safety is always a primary concern for our workers, as well as the public doing business within our departments,” said Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson. “We are proud to have the capabilities to offer weather warnings and to receive this recognition from the National Weather Service.”

The animal shelter said its status as a Supporter facility is valid for five years. At that point, WCAC will need to re-apply for that designation.

If you want to learn more about the WCAC, which is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, follow this link.