Unilateral tornado siren activation requires notification

“At the very least, any time a local public safety agency activates tornado sirens on its own (e.g. without an NWS warning), that agency should immediately notify the NWS that it has done so, and why. Why? Because without that notification, nobody who depends on NOAA weather radio or broadcast media for their warnings will know what’s going on!”

That’s an opinion I put forth on this blog in an August 8, 2013 post.

This weekend, I came across two bits of information to support that assertion.

On my way to the 2016 Great Lakes Meteorology Conference (GLMC), I listened to the most recent episode of the Carolina Weather Group webcast (see below). At about 23 minutes in, I heard Perry Boxx, news director of South Bend, Indiana’s Fox TV affiliate, relay a viewer’s story of what happened during an Indiana statewide tornado warning test. Boxx said that after the listeners heard outdoor warning sirens, they turned on their television to find out what was going on. The first two stations to which they tuned provided no information, but the Fox station was running a “crawl” that explained a test was underway.

During the GLMC, emergency planner Rob Dale of a county emergency management agency in Michigan mentioned that the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) had published best practices for outdoor warning sirens. Among those best practices: When local jurisdictions activate sirens in the absence of a National Weather Service warning, the local officials should “Immediately notify the National Weather Service and local media!” (exclamation point included in the quoted document).

Dale chaired the IAEM committee that drafted the best practices document.  I’ve invited him to write a guest post for this blog on the topic.

By the way, during a question-and-answer session, Dale said that outdoor warning sirens are irrelevant in urban areas, but the “public will never let them die.” It would appear that Dale agrees with my 2014 assertion that the outdated technology is ingrained in our culture.

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