Emergency Management Agencies explain outdoor storm warning siren systems

During many severe storms at least one siren in the area hasn't worked.

Posted: Feb 13, 2020 8:28 PM

Plenty of rain and flooding during the past two weeks during the past two weeks has brought severe weather warnings to our area.

Those severe storm warnings are when outdoor warning sirens can save lives, but in north Alabama, there are consistent problems with them not working.

Rita White, Limestone County Emergency Management Director, said her office does monthly tests to make sure the county's 27 warning sirens are working, but those tests don’t guarantee they’ll work when needed because of their location.

"They have various components in them. They have the computer boards, they have batteries. There are all kinds of parts to them so like any other piece of equipment you can have a failure of one. They are outdoors all the time. The parts are enclosed. The majority of them, but they are out in the weather," she said.

Across the state line in Tennessee, Doug Campbell, Lincoln County Emergency Management Director, said workers do weekly tests, but there was no scientific evidence to support those tests with the old system.

"We relied on citizens to call and say 'hey the siren at unity school isn't working,'" he said.

Campbell explained when a tornado warning was issued in December none of the sirens sounded just days after one of those weekly tests.

"The computer system was old. Naturally, technology had passed them by," he explained.

Back across the state line in Alabama, storms in Lawrence County prompted a tornado warning to be issued, but one siren didn't work.

Major damage was left behind by an EF-2 tornado during that warning. It killed 2 people and seriously injured several others.

Campbell said Lincoln County and the City of Fayetteville spent $70,000 to buy 10 new sirens for the area. These new sirens have technology that can be accessed remotely or at the emergency management agency office on a computer. It shows if the sirens are working, and if the different components inside the warning siren are operating properly.

"It gives us a piece of mind that the sirens are working. We would get calls in here all the time that said hey the siren didn't work. We didn't hear it, so we would have to call a technician. Technicians come out and see what's going on and why our siren did not work. With this system here, it automatically tells us there is something wrong," Campbell explained.

In Limestone County, White said it's siren testing systems creates a print out during monthly tests to show if there are any problems with the sirens. Last year, the county spent $10,000 fixing sirens. White said replacing all 27 sirens in the county would cost about $750,000. She believes the sirens aren't creating enough problems to make that necessary.

"We have pretty good luck with them now. Every now and then you'll have one with an issue or a problem. We do advise residents to not depend on those sirens. They are made for outdoor warning purposes. They're not made to be heard in doors. You may hear them indoors at time but then other times you may not. It all depends on cloud cover, wind, various factors," she said.

Emergency Management Directors all across North Alabama said they suggest everyone has at least two ways to receive emergency alerts such as getting alerts to their phone or having a weather radio.

WAAY 31 reached out to Emergency Management Agencies across north Alabama. Right now, Madison county told us one of it's warning sirens is not working. Marshall county told us it currently has 3 of it's sirens not working. Laurderale County said two of it's sirens aren't working. Morgan, Jackson, Dekalb, and Lawrence county said currently all of it's sirens are believed to working.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 414583

Reported Deaths: 5945
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson60842887
Mobile29590538
Madison26466183
Tuscaloosa20537267
Montgomery18562304
Shelby18181112
Baldwin15841177
Lee1212097
Morgan12002112
Etowah11488142
Calhoun10863197
Marshall10048106
Houston8405123
Cullman792294
Limestone785073
Elmore7670101
DeKalb757282
St. Clair7417120
Lauderdale740282
Talladega6036108
Walker5834176
Jackson571937
Colbert522270
Blount521980
Autauga507555
Coffee431456
Dale388278
Franklin362145
Chilton332965
Covington325567
Russell318910
Escambia309842
Dallas297988
Chambers275769
Clarke272933
Tallapoosa2591107
Pike245829
Lawrence239345
Marion238649
Winston222535
Bibb211347
Geneva196331
Marengo196329
Pickens195331
Hale172542
Barbour169636
Butler166958
Fayette164026
Cherokee158330
Henry149219
Monroe143617
Randolph137635
Washington135426
Clay124446
Crenshaw117444
Lamar116819
Cleburne115123
Macon111935
Lowndes107935
Wilcox99921
Bullock97128
Perry95019
Conecuh92820
Sumter89126
Greene75123
Coosa59814
Choctaw50824
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 670482

Reported Deaths: 8232
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby747611088
Davidson69030648
Knox37822389
Hamilton33776322
Rutherford32471281
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Sumner17850228
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Cocke336655
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Marshall333136
Cheatham328528
Henderson328253
Giles315071
Campbell314639
Hardeman304351
White304342
Carroll300159
Hardin293546
Lauderdale288731
Macon282850
Wayne258219
Henry253957
Overton246942
DeKalb237340
Haywood234644
McNairy231642
Smith228427
Trousdale227814
Marion220031
Scott219731
Hickman218134
Fentress208430
Grainger202134
Claiborne198721
Johnson194830
Morgan183613
Crockett178938
Bledsoe171110
Chester169836
Unicoi162843
Cannon153419
Lake153019
Decatur145124
Grundy137420
Polk137317
Union136121
Sequatchie132518
Humphreys129817
Benton129634
Lewis126020
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