False sirens cause problems

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Many Shelby County residents are beginning to wonder about the repeated sounding of outdoor weather sirens that seemingly go off for no particular reason, at times even under pretty blue skies.

After a flood of phone calls during the last two weeks, officials from the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency released a statement

acknowledging that several sirens were activated by mistake.

But the &uot;false alarms&uot; still produce the same high decibel wail as the real thing, leading to inquiries and a number of complaints, officials said.

&uot;We know that they are a nuisance,&uot; said Mindy Soro of the Shelby County EMA. &uot;We are working to correct the problem as soon as possible.&uot;

At least five of Shelby County’s 62 outdoor weather sirens have been falsely activated in recent weeks, said Don Greene, director of the Shelby County EMA.

&uot;We are aware that there has been some malfunctions and some false alarms with several of the sirens,&uot; Greene said. &uot;Rest assured we are doing everything we can do to correct the problem.

&uot;We do appreciate the people calling and showing their concern.&uot;

While the EMA is aware of a problem with the sirens, they are not yet certain what is causing them to go off.

Greene said local agencies are meeting with the manufacturers of the equipment to determine the cause of the malfunction.

&uot;The only time we activate the sirens is for a severe weather warning,&uot; Greene said.

Although parts of the county were placed under a tornado watch by the National Weather Service over the weekend, the EMA does not activate sirens unless there is a tornado warning.

But the sirens on Highway 119 near Oak Mountain Elementary School went off any way, as did the sirens in Old Town Helena.

The sirens on Caldwell Mill Road near Oak Mountain High School and on Valleydale Road near Winn Dixie were also falsely activated on at least one occasion over the weekend.

Greene said the sirens may have been activated as many as 12 times in some locations.

The National Weather Service will issue a tornado warning only if a tornado has been identified by radar or storm spotters.

A tornado watch is issued only when conditions are favorable for the development of a tornado.

When functioning properly, the weather sirens serve as an outdoor warning for severe weather, Greene said. If the sirens are activated citizens are directed to go indoors and consult television or radio for further information.

The sirens in use by the county were purchased from several different manufacturers, but can all be controlled from a central location.

As soon as the sirens are activated officials at the EMA are notified through a console, Soro said.

Therefore, citizens do not need to notify the EMA if the sirens go off, she said.

&uot;If, for some unknown reason, the alarm is activated, other than during severe weather, please disregard the warning,&uot; EMA officials said in Friday’s statement