Official Says Outdoor Weather Sirens Are Still Crucial

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For a few days, the sirens in Johnston were not working. Some people said, who cares? In this technical age of today, maybe we don't need the loud, blaring sirens anymore.

AJ Mumm, the director of the Polk County Emergency Management, said that’s something they are often asked about.

“There’s a shrinking niche for that kind of technology,” Mumm admitted.

In the civil defense days, warning sirens were meant to signal an attack from planes above. But today, the sirens are used for destructive weather patterns, such as high winds and tornadoes. Mumm said the sirens fit into a layered approach to notifying the public of severe weather.

“From NOAA weather alert radios to the applications on phones, those all fit a niche based on what you’re doing that day or what kind of lifestyle you live,” Mumm said.

Mumm said the outdoor weather sirens aren’t designed for you to hear in your house. They’re designed to alert people outdoors to seek shelter immediately.

Johnston’s sirens were out of operation for days. Mumm said because there are four entities that deal with a city’s sirens, it gets complicated.

Cities own the infrastructure of the siren, including the pole and the horn, all the way down to paying for the electricity. Polk County Dispatch is the center that activates signal to trigger the sirens to blow.

Vendors that manufactured the siren are responsible for the coding of the siren. Lastly, the sheriff’s office uses a third party that sends a signal from the dispatch center.

Polk County has 150 sirens across the metro, and almost every time there’s a test, there’s always one or two that do not sound right.

“Like any electronic device, with that many relays, the baton is handed off several times, there’s going to be failures,” Mumm said.

Your best defense against severe weather is to make sure your weather radio is working properly and download apps to your mobile devices, like the 13WarnMe app (Download).

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