MERRIAM, Kan. — Tuesday’s statewide tornado drill in Missouri and Kansas raised a few red flags. Thousands received storm warning texts that never should’ve gone out. In Johnson County, Kansas, none of its 200 sirens sounded.
Blue skies and springs temperatures brought lots of people to Antioch Park in Merriam. But Chae Scharf knows storm season isn’t far off.
“We live in tornado alley pretty much so you have to be prepared for it but we’re used to it so you kind of get used to tornados,” Scharf said.
She was surprised her neighborhood sirens didn’t go off during Tuesday morning’s statewide drill.
“I wasn’t real concerned because I had already seen the weather, but you never know here so you always have to stop and make sure you know what’s going on around you,” Scharf said.
Johnson County’s emergency management agency confirms none of its 200 sirens properly sounded Tuesday. At 9:30 a.m., the county tested the triggers without using the audible alarms and everything worked fine.
“We were just verifying that the radio traffic worked. However, when it came time to activate the sirens 30 minutes later at 10 a.m., on what’s called the primary repeater, the method of activation did fail,” said Trent Pittman, Johnson County emergency management community preparedness assistant director.
The county said in recent years, the entire system hasn’t had a failure like this. It’s more common to find an issue with one or two individual sirens. But it is exactly the reason testing is so critical.
“It is a job we take very seriously. We have strict policies and plans in place to make sure these sirens are activated successfully every time. And these tests every once in a while do have some issues. But fortunately, we’re able to work to get those ironed out as soon as possible,” Pittman said.
The county’s siren vendors found what failed Tuesday and will be working to fix the issue. The system will get another go at making sure everything’s working during monthly testing scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m.
Johnson County insists it has tested its backup system, so should any severe weather happen before repairs are complete, the sirens can still be activated. It also tested the “Notify JoCo” email and text system Tuesday, and it worked without issue.