The Siren Mentality

This is what is going to kill more Alabamians than anything else in future tornado outbreaks.

For some reason, it seems like people in our state are born with the notion that you should hear an outdoor warning siren before every tornado. After almost any severe weather event, our folks in the newsroom will interview somebody that says "I never heard the siren" before the tornado arrived. The national media, generally based in New York or the West Coast, typically are clueless about the warning process and love these sound bites.

Quite frankly, if it was up to me, all of the outdoor warning sirens were be taken down and put out of service. That way, you KNOW you will never hear one.

The truth is that sirens are horribly ineffective at reaching people inside a building, whether it be a home, office, church, or school. And, even their outdoor range is very limited.

Sirens were a product of the Cold War, when we had the threat of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, or Cuba. It was a great idea in 1955, but this is 2010, and we have the technology to put these things to bed.

Yes, for now, the best solution is a NOAA Weather Radio. The new models are digital, which means you can select the counties for which the alarm sounds. Every Alabama home and business needs one.

But, we are rapidly moving into a time when technology will pass Weather Radio by. You can get warnings on your phone (cell or home) with services like WeatherCall, and apps are being developed that offer warnings on your phone based on GPS location information.

The bottom line is this... never, and I mean never, rely on an outdoor warning siren to let you know a tornado is coming. Have a working NOAA Weather Radio receiver programmed properly in your home, and have WeatherCall or a similar service active for your phone. Getting the warning does save lives during tornado outbreaks, and it is time for the siren mentality to end.