Taking Action: Madison Co. EMA Explains Why It Sounded All Sirens

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Out with the old and in with the new. The Madison County Emergency Management Agency installed a new system last summer. It allows the EMA to only trigger tornado sirens for neighborhoods in the path of a storm. During Monday’s severe weather, however, the whole county heard the sirens.

“This event was also unique in that you had several storm systems, several tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings simultaneously on top of each other,” said Paige Colburn, an officer with the EMA.  “It became prudent to sound the sirens county-wide.”

Colburn said it’s better to be safe than sorry. Just because they have new technology and new capabilities doesn’t mean that’s always the way to go. The EMA has to adapt to the severe weather threat. “Sometimes you just have to make that decision,” she said. “This was a dangerous situation, we were under a particularly dangerous situation, a PDS watch, and we had just had a very dangerous tornado on the ground at our neighbor Limestone County.”

Colburn said sounding all of the alarms actually helped out the EMA. They noticed there were some maintenance issues that need to be addressed in Harvest. Crews are working on those issues right away.

WHNT News 19 also had complaints from people saying they couldn’t hear the sirens very well during the severe weather. Colburn said that could be due to high speeds of wind, rain, and thunder. It’s also important to remember the the sirens are “outdoor sirens,” and not for the benefit of someone who is already seeking shelter. “They’re just designed to be heard in a one-mile radius by all the people who are outdoors in that one-mile radius.”

Overall, Colburn said the EMA stands by their decision to revert back to its old policy of activating all sirens in Madison County. “We prefer to warn everybody and make some people angry at having to hear the sirens when they’re not in the path than to let any one person die for lack of being warned.”

The EMA will be testing the outdoor sirens next Wednesday, May 7th at noon. If you think a siren in your neighborhood has an issue, contact the Madison County EMA.