Counties in East Alabama improve tornado sirens

May 11, 2009

By Chris Vessell  bio | email

May 11, 2008 (WTVM) - There have been numerous tornado warnings this spring in East Alabama. Currently, all of a county's tornado sirens are sounded, even when a small portion of the county is at risk.  However, some new equipment is expected to change that.

Several counties across East Alabama are implementing new siren software that will alarm only those residents that live in the path of a possible tornado. The Lee County Emergency Management Agency hopes it helps people take tornado warnings more seriously.

"What we're trying to do is get specific on the area that is actually being threatened by the storm," Kathy Russell, Lee County EMA Director said. EMA officials say this spring's severe weather led them to activate tornado sirens up to five times within one day, but it's not always necessary to sound sirens countywide.

"If you are blowing the sirens over and over again because the storms are in different parts of the county, you may have activated the outdoor warning sirens so many times that people are not really paying attention to them any more," Russell said.

The new $2000 software will soon be installed in Lee County, only sounding sirens in the polygon path of the storm designated by the National Weather Service. "For instance if the storm is in Salem, we don't necessarily want to activate the tornado sirens in Auburn," the EMA Director said.

Russell and Chambers Counties are also implementing the same technology. "It makes people understand better, too, that when those sirens go off, they need to take some action," Russell said.

The software will help prevent confusion when one part of the county is in the all clear.  It will also help control the common flood of phone calls that emergency crews receive during severe weather. "People do call here a lot when there is a storm, wanting to know if they will be affected and we want to try to alleviate that," said Russell.

The technology is expected to be installed within the next two months. The Lee County Emergency Management Agency will test the sirens every Wednesday starting July 3rd.