3 cities change severe weather sirens; urge others to do same

milkman

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Aug 26, 2014
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Norman, OK
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -

The National Weather Service is teaming with Joplin, Springfield-Greene County, Branson and broadcasters to standardize the activation of outdoor warning sirens. They want to ensure residents who live in the Ozarks understand exactly what it means when the sirens go off.

Almost every county and city in Missouri has a different standard for setting off outdoor sirens. Following the tornadoes in Joplin in May 2011 and in Branson in February 2012, broadcasters and emergency management officials came to realize that consistent guidelines are needed for outdoor warning sirens.

The National Weather Service, representatives of broadcasters, and several leaders of Offices of Emergency Management teamed up to come up with standardized guidelines as part of the Ozarks Integrated Warning Team.

The five members of the IWT committee include: Meteorologist Doug Cramer with the National Weather Service in Springfield; Chet Hunter with the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Managemen;, Branson Fire Chief Ted Martin; Keith Stammer with the Joplin Office of Emergency Management; and KSPR-TV chief meteorologist Kevin Lighty.

Starting March 1, the three areas mentioned above, and other cities and counties who have now joined them, will have the same procedures for setting off sirens in storms. That way, residents who travel from area to area will know the warnings are the same, wherever they are.

Sirens in these areas will be activated when a tornado warning is issued in that area; or if a trained spotter reports rotation, a funnel cloud or tornado in the area, tracking toward the area. The sirens will also sound when the NWS issues a thunderstorm warning producing life threatening winds; or if a trained spotter reports those same winds in or approaching the area where the sirens are.

All outdoor warning sirens in the area will sound a steady tone for three minutes. They will then “rest” for three minutes. This will continue until the warning is over.

The National Weather Service said the three-minute cycle is for mechanical reasons. After three minutes of operation, the electrical components of the sirens begin to heat up, and risk burning out completely. The three-minute period of silence is essentially a cool-down period so the devices don't burn up.

An all-clear will not be sounded. Residents should listen to their NOAA Weather Radio or local broadcasters for weather information.

When the sirens in your area are activated, you should move inside a sturdy building and seek shelter in an area as low and interior as possible. It’s also important to use a NOAA weather radio and listen to broadcasters for updates on a storm.

The same new procedures will also be used in testing the sirens. Each siren will be tested on the second Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. They will be activated for three minutes.

If there is 100 percent cloud cover, overcast skies, predicted thunderstorms, or freezing weather, the sirens will not be tested. If the sirens aren’t tested on the regular monthly test date and time, there will be no make-up test that month.

The sirens could also be tested after maintenance or repairs, but only if the city administration has been notified and local broadcasters are notified 12-24 hours in advance.

Sirens may be activated with approval from the Emergency Management Director or upon request of the National Weather Service representing that county.

The NWS and counties participating in the standard siren operating procedures hope other counties and towns in Missouri will join in the effort.

“It’s important every county and every city standardize their procedures as part of this operation,” said Cramer. “I continue to be amazed at the teamwork from these cities and counties as they work to protect the lives of people in the Ozarks."









This seems interesting. I feel this can cause confusion for the population. Tonight in Joplin(4/2/15) there was a tornado threat and they sounded the siren in 3 minute successions like this and apparently residence thought there were three different tornadoes.
 
This seems interesting. I feel this can cause confusion for the population. Tonight in Joplin(4/2/15) there was a tornado threat and they sounded the siren in 3 minute successions like this and apparently residence thought there were three different tornadoes.
How would this be confusing? Should it just be sounded once and that's it? I think this is the best possible solution, given the mechanical limitations of the equipment. It also might get the attention of people who didn't hear the first sounding. If the public chooses to not pay attention to this information regarding the procedures being put out in the media, it's on them.

I do think testing more than once a month would be best though. In the Tulsa area, the sirens were tested once a week when I was growing up. Always at Wednesday at noon. In Yukon (where I live now), it is every Saturday at noon. Both places, of course, didn't run the test if it was really cloudy or raining.
 

rdale

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Mar 1, 2004
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Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
I think this is the best possible solution, given the mechanical limitations of the equipment.
Newer models can go continuously. Our suggestion is that you re-sound them if there is an actual tornado spotted. We don't suggest it for the "radar-only" warning.

I do think testing more than once a month would be best
The reason we went with monthly is that experiments show any frequent testing causes the public to become immune to them. They don't "get" your attention if you hear them all the time. Newer models never need to be loud-tested, but that's a road many EMs aren't willing to take just quite yet.
 
May 2, 2010
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Springfield, IL
Sirens in these areas will be activated when a tornado warning is issued in that area; or if a trained spotter reports rotation, a funnel cloud or tornado in the area, tracking toward the area. The sirens will also sound when the NWS issues a thunderstorm warning producing life threatening winds; or if a trained spotter reports those same winds in or approaching the area where the sirens are.

A question not clearly answered here is the definition of "area". Does it mean only the specific area under the tornado warning polygon, or does it mean the entire county for which a warning is issued? The latter policy can result in overwarning if, say, a tornado touches down on the northern edge of a given county and the sirens are sounded 15 or 20 miles to the south, where the tornado is likely to miss.

Tonight in Joplin(4/2/15) there was a tornado threat and they sounded the siren in 3 minute successions like this and apparently residence thought there were three different tornadoes.

I wonder how much of the reaction is genuine confusion and how much is simply over-anxiety about the threat -- entirely understandable given what Joplin residents have been through in recent years.
 
Newer models can go continuously.
How many of those sirens will be replaced before the end of their service life? I doubt any, so it makes sense to go by the limitations of your most limited equipment.

The reason we went with monthly is that experiments show any frequent testing causes the public to become immune to them. They don't "get" your attention if you hear them all the time. Newer models never need to be loud-tested, but that's a road many EMs aren't willing to take just quite yet.
I can understand being not willing to take that road. We ran into an issue at work where we found out (during a tornado warning I might add) that the alarms between the buildings were not linked. They never thought to test them on a regular basis, so it never got caught. I'm not concerned as much about the sirens themselves as I am everything between the activation button and the siren.
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
6,986
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Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
A question not clearly answered here is the definition of "area". Does it mean only the specific area under the tornado warning polygon
Yes.

How many of those sirens will be replaced before the end of their service life? I doubt any, so it makes sense to go by the limitations of your most limited equipment.
Grant funds are available and many jurisdictions have done that. I know Joplin upgraded a lot (not sure if they did all, I can't find the story now.)

I'm not concerned as much about the sirens themselves as I am everything between the activation button and the siren.
We test that 3 times a day, then do a "semi-quiet" test every Saturday, and a full test the first Saturday a month. That was necessary back in the old days with mechanical sirens, only the comm test is needed today.
 
Jul 16, 2013
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Joplin, MO
Tonight in Joplin(4/2/15) there was a tornado threat and they sounded the siren in 3 minute successions like this and apparently residence thought there were three different tornadoes.

I wonder how much of the reaction is genuine confusion and how much is simply over-anxiety about the threat -- entirely understandable given what Joplin residents have been through in recent years.
I live here in Joplin in an apartment complex with storm shelters, I was here Thursday night during the tornado warning watching the storm near where the storm shelter is. So from my personal observation, the 3 minutes of no sirens confused the hell out of people (not me as I knew). After about 2 minutes of no sirens, people began to leave the storm shelter and walking back to their apartment complex thinking the threat was over. No sooner they got out and were walking back, sirens sounded again and everyone was running back into the shelter. I'm not sure if having 3 minutes of no sirens is a good thing after seeing that Thursday night.
 
Feb 19, 2005
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Yes.



Grant funds are available and many jurisdictions have done that. I know Joplin upgraded a lot (not sure if they did all, I can't find the story now.)



We test that 3 times a day, then do a "semi-quiet" test every Saturday, and a full test the first Saturday a month. That was necessary back in the old days with mechanical sirens, only the comm test is needed today.

LOL at the grant funding... You would be VERY surprised about how very little funding OEM offices (in Missouri) receives. Grant funding from the federal government has been drying up over the past few years. I have friends that work in Iowa. I wish I had half their budget.
 
Feb 19, 2005
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Macon, MO
I can tell you for a fact it does not trickle down to the locals. 8.0 mil went to locals for FY 15. that doesnt go far when you divide that up among 116 agencies, and those are mainly in the KC and STL metro area... Also Iowa Counties have a much better funding strategy. There are quite a few counties that employ a special levy for funding in addition whereas most MO counties' OEMs dont have any way to get funding other than grants and general revenue. I could go on about this subject all day... but Ill just leave it at that...
 
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rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
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Lansing, MI
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Trying to fund 116 individual agencies might be at the core of the issue... Here we do it all regionally and then break down to locals as needed. Interesting seeing how other states do it.
 
Feb 19, 2005
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Macon, MO
Trying to fund 116 individual agencies might be at the core of the issue... Here we do it all regionally and then break down to locals as needed. Interesting seeing how other states do it.
They do that with Homeland Security money... broke down on a regional basis... but that is used to fund everything from generators to health departments (in our region its mainly health departments) . It is supposed to be regional assets Therefore things like sirens do not get funded. That subject fires me up too... but that's different story altogether.
 
Jul 16, 2013
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Joplin, MO
"Number one, it was on Facebook. My daughter-in-law was, what's up with these alarms going off every three minutes? I don't know if we're supposed to take cover. If it's over. They keep going off, you know. Just Irritating," says Estes.