Sunny Skies & Tornado Sirens

Posted on: 8:40 am, March 13, 2012, by , updated on: 12:26pm, March 14, 2012

ScreenHunter_07 Mar. 13 08.40

More fabulous weather today as highs surge to near record values. we may not get there officially in KC, the record is 82° set way back in 1918, but we are going to be very close tot he record for the date. Likewise tomorrow as well. I’m probably going to start adding some rain chances in the forecast for Thursday later today. This has been showing up consistently in the data for the past couple of days and I wanted to see how it would play out before adding the chances. While many of you won’t see rainfall, there will be some areas that do, so don’t let that surprise you this afternoon when I add in that chance.

We continue our Severe Weather Preparedness week and today I have a video that was actually reasonably well done and has a touch of humor to it. It talks about how you can’t really know when a disaster will happen, but it’s always out there lurking. Take a look at the video and remember to think about your plan when severe weather threatens.

Today I want to briefly talk about the OUTDOOR Siren System. Notice how I capitalized OUTDOOR, because you see the sirens are NOT meant to be heard indoors. They’re not designed to be heard when your sleeping, they’re not designed to be the ONLY way you get your severe weather information. They WERE designed to notify you of severe weather, for most counties in the form of tornadoes, IF you’re OUTSIDE. The sirens are beneficial that way and should be utilized that way.

I think we all know that typically when the sirens are triggered there are three reactions. One is that people will grab the kids and head to their safe place in their residence. The second reaction is that some people will then look for additional information, often from local TV stations about why the sirens are going off. The third reaction is that some people (usually the men in the house) will go OUTSIDE and see what the commotion is about, usually with a video camera. I can’t tell you how many videos I’ve see of guys outside with a tornado a few hundred feet away, and in the background you can hear the wife screaming at the guy to come inside and get to the basement.

The siren system that we have is what it is. Generally reliable but subject to failure. Different counties have different reasons why they go off. In Joplin one of the big things that was noticed in the Assessment report was that the folks there had siren fatigue heading towards that fateful day. They had heard the sirens going off so much because of previous tornado warnings that never produced any tornadoes because they set them off down there for certain Severe T/Storm warnings as well that they stopped paying attention to the siren system for the most part. Different counties set them off for other reasons as well. I think down by the nuclear plant in Wolf Creek the sirens go off if the hail if going to be golf ball sized or larger.

Several years ago there was actually a small movement afoot within the media., NWS and even some EM’s to see about standardizing the reason why the sirens go off. In other words creating a policy so that they go off only for tornado warnings. This however was quickly shot down by other EM’s because they felt that there was no way they could get their city council people to approve the change. So yes even the siren system is political as well.

There are some counties in our area that can set off the sirens for specific locations. In other words IF the tornado warning is for the north part of the county, the south part of the county won’t have the sirens go off. Many counties though do not have that capability. Like I said they are what they are.

Should you 100% rely on them…no. Can you utilize them as part of your safety plan? If your very close to a siren system…yes. Again you need other methods for getting your information, especially in the middle of the night. There are services out there that will automatically call your home IF a warning is issued for a tornado. Just google away and you can find these services. You can purchase a weather radio, and specifically set it so it alerts you to the various warnings for your individual county (look for the SAME technology). FOX 4 provides a service where we alert specific counties via Facebook. So all you have to do is set your account too get updates via text and this information will get sent to you automatically. It’s a FREE service that we provide.

So you can see there are different ways that information can automatically be sent to you in addition to the siren system. Think about this, what happens if the strong winds take down the sirens in your area. Perhaps the warning was issued after the tornado touched down. It can happen. Then you’re looking at dark skies outside not seeking shelter and a tornado bears down on your house. You have no idea because the sirens don’t function. Suppose a siren near your home is broken or down for some reason. Again I’m not here trying to rip apart this mode of communication, what I’m trying to tell you is that it is one tool that can be used but shouldn’t be the ONLY way you know about the potential for severe weather.

OK I’ve written enough about this. With all that said today is the day that MO/KS will trigger the sirens @ 1:30 PM or so as a statewide test. The sirens will go off and some will hear them and others will not. There have been instances in the past where we find out that several sirens have malfunctioned. That’s why we test them, hopefully before severe weather hits.

Your comments, as usual, are welcome.

Joe

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