Stop believing in tornado sirens!

Photo of tornado siren

In support of Indiana’s Severe Weather Preparedness Week (March 16 – 22), I plan to post a series of articles on this blog. Some will be targeted at my readers who are members of the general public and others will be intended for trained SKYWARN storm spotters.

This first instalment in the series is for everyone; especially everyone who thinks tornado sirens will keep them safe from severe weather.

Tornado sirens are something of a tradition in the Midwest. For many of us, the very sound of a tornado siren creates an emotional response – which is why some NFL teams play recordings of tornado sirens during games. These sirens are so woven into our culture that many Midwesterners dangerously assume that if a tornado threatens their town/city/neighborhood, they’ll hear a tornado siren. Just as dangerously, many believe that if they don’t hear a siren, there’s no real danger.

In fact, very few communities have enough tornado sirens to protect all residents. And no sirens are intended to be heard indoors. So, if you rely solely on sirens to keep you safe, chances are very high that even if a tornado is bearing down on you and even if it has been spotted, warnings have been issued and sirens activated, you won’t know about it!

Just to give you an idea of how sporadic tornado sirens can be, the area of Allen County, Indiana is 660 square miles. According to the Allen County Office of Homeland Security, only 175 square miles are within range of tornado sirens (“within range” meaning the sirens can be heard by people who are outdoors). That means only 26.5 percent of Allen County’s geography is within range of a tornado siren!

There are other issues with tornado sirens, but I’ll omit them for now. The bottom line is this: Stop believing in tornado sirens. Find other ways to know if you and your family are in danger, even late at night when you’re all asleep. A good start is to buy a weather alert radio, put fresh batteries in it, and program it to sound off when warnings are issued for your county.

Read more about weather alert radios and other alternatives to tornado sirens.

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