GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Staying up to date in a severe weather event is critical to keeping yourself and your family safe.
Outdoor warning sirens are sounded when tornado warnings or high-wind warnings are issued by the National Weather Service. Historically, only tornado warnings would prompt the sounding of the warning sirens, but the policy changed to include high wind events following Derecho of 1998. Current policy in most municipalities states the sirens will also sound for a wind event, which may feature hurricane force winds (sustained 74 mph or greater).
While the tornado sirens are an effective way to alert the public to a dangerous weather event, those sirens have limitations.
Sirens are considered to be an outdoor warning system because they are loud enough to be heard by people who are outdoors. The sirens are not intended to be heard inside enclosed buildings like a home.
Meteorologist James Spann is a severe weather expert who has been taking the lead on educating the public about the limitations of tornado sirens. In a 2016 blog post, he wrote the following on what he calls “The Siren Mentality.”
“Why in the world do people think they will hear a magical air raid siren inside their home to let them know a tornado is coming? Sure, you might hear a siren on nice days with blue sky and sunshine when they are being tested, but you have no hope in the middle of the night during a severe thunderstorm. They have never been designed to warn people inside homes, businesses, schools, churches, or any other structure. They reach a limited number of people outside, and that is it,” he wrote.
To stay completely connected, it’s recommended that homes have a NOAA Weather Radio, which will act like an alarm clock for severe weather. The NOAA Weather Radio can be programmed for a specific county, alerting the public to severe weather watches and warnings as threatening weather develops.
At Storm Team 8, we have a free weather app, which can be downloaded to a smart phone. The Storm Team 8 Weather App will alert you to developing severe weather and it also allows you to stay connected to Storm Track Live Radar, along with current conditions and weather forecast details.
Staying connected to severe weather information is as easy as keeping your mobile device fully charged during episodes of severe weather. Information is the key to safety.