MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT)-- For decades, Madison County (along with most other counties in north Alabama) had a policy of sounding its warning sirens across the entire county anytime a tornado warning was issued.
With the advent of new technology and adequate funding, that is no longer the case.
"Our strategy as of today is to try to warn only the people that are in the path of the storm," said Scott Worsham with the Madison County Emergency Management Agency. Only sirens that are included within warnings issued by the National Weather Service will be sounded.
Starting October 1, 2007, the National Weather Service stopped issuing severe weather warnings for entire counties and began using polygon-based warnings. The new warnings are much smaller in an attempt to only warn people actually in the path of the severe storm. Emergency management agencies now have the capability of having their outdoor warning siren systems mimic the polygon warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
The bottom line? When you hear a siren blaring in Madison County, "it means that you are in the polygon warning area; you are in the path of the storm and that will be the time to take cover," said Worsham.
Five new outdoor warning sirens have been installed in Madison County since April 27, 2011. The equipment for four more sirens in the annexed areas of Limestone County has already been purchased.
When tornado warnings are first issued, outdoor warning sirens will sound for five minutes, regardless of how long the tornado warning is in effect for. The siren will not sound again unless the tornado warning itself is updated, or a new one is issued.
Outdoor warning sirens are not designed to wake you up in the middle of the night. You should also not expect to be able to hear one while inside your home, business or inside a school. Sirens are meant to alarm people who are outside; it's a notice to go inside and seek further information about what severe weather or other emergency is occurring.
WHNT News 19 offers several free resources to help you remain informed about inclement weather.