Madison County EMA says warning sirens worked during Monday’s storms

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Monday night produced the first tornado warning in Madison County since Nov. 29-30, 2016, and the Madison County Emergency Management Agency says the warning sirens worked.

The sirens were used twice, as the tornado warning was adjusted slightly for the path of the storm, said Jeff Birdwell, director of the Madison County EMA.

The successful use of the sirens comes following failures in 2016 that included an incident in May of that year where every siren sounded, when only a few were supposed to, and the failure of the sirens to sound when a tornado touched down in Madison County in November 2016.

Birdwell addressed each of the incidents as the EMA worked to correct the problems.

Following the May 2016 problems, which included storm sirens sounding during Panoply when the threat was not close to the event, Birdwell explained what happened. The EMA had done testing a few days earlier.

“We did the ones that were supposed to go off, we had others that were not supposed to go off, because the system did not reset based on the test on Friday,” Birdwell said at the time.

A tornado hit the Ryland area in late November 2016, but sirens didn`t sound. A computer code error was blamed.

“From my understanding with the absence of this code, as the polygon was received from the National Weather Service, not having that code didn`t allow the software to recognize that we had a warning,” Birdwell said in December 2016.

Following those problems testing and manual backups were emphasized. A successful test was completed in January.

In the wake of that, testing and manual backups were emphasized. A test last January, offered hope.

“What we are able to prove today, was in a live testing environment, that yes, the system is, at least at this point, working correctly,” Birdwell said in January 2017.

But it wasn’t a drill Monday night and Birdwell said the system passed a “big test.”

Birdwell said that Monday night, the polygon system worked as it should have, and local workers called some designated area residents to confirm the sirens were working.”