Tornado Myth: Are Outdoor Sirens Enough?

We continue our look at tornado myths.  In this segment, we look at the claim that outdoor warning sirens are good enough; you don’t need anything else to a get a warning.

For years, many people have relied on outdoor warning sirens to keep them safe during severe weather, thinking this is enough to alert them to an approaching tornado. This is a myth!  This is not true.

Outdoor sirens have been around since World War II.  They were initially designed to alert the public to incoming raids and nuclear attacks.

Outdoor warning sirens are just that — outdoor.  They are designed to warn you when you are on a golf course, playground or working in your garden, for instance.  They aren’t designed to be heard in your house, work or church.

According to Paige Colburn, an emergency management officer with the Huntsville/Madison County EMA, outdoor warning sirens have limitations.

“They are only designed to be heard from a one-mile radius of the siren’s physical location,” said Colburn.

That’s not all. Traveling sound can be masked by noisy thunderstorms and obstacles like mountains.

Plus, sirens aren’t designed to wake you up in the middle of the night.   And, if the power goes out, sirens won’t work.   April 27, 2011 was evidence of that.

The best solution is a battery-powered weather radio.  This works if the power goes out.  It should be loud enough to wake even the deepest sleeper.

Another tool to have in your severe weather safety arsenal: SAF-T-NET.  This alert lets you know when severe weather is approaching your area.  It alerts you via email or text message on your cell phone.  Alabama SAF-T-NET is free from Baron Services, although standard text messaging rates apply, depending on your cell phone carrier.

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