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Monday, April 20, 2009

Emergency Sirens

"It's a twister! It's a twister!" - Zeke in Wizard of Oz
Do you know the sound of the emergency sirens in your town? Do you know the town policy for using them? A week ago several people in Mena, Arkansas were killed by a tornado. Some could not hear the town siren, some ignored it, some thought the emergency was over when the killer tornado struck.

Tornadoes (like earthquakes) can strike more than once. People often leave their safeyzone after the first strike and are surprised and injured by a second touch down or after-quake. The best advice is to stay put until you hear an all clear signal. Only evacuate if your "safe spot" has become unsafe because of fire, bad air or it might fall on you.

The situation in Mena was particularly confusing. The tornado sirens sounded three times and three times "harmless" funnel clouds passed over the town. After a half hour of this people either assumed the worst was over or clearly nothing bad was going to happen. "The siren was going off in plenty of time, I just didn't take it serious enough," said one resident.

Then the siren sounded for a fourth time and within minutes a killer tornado hit. 600 homes were damaged or destroyed. Another resident who ignored the siren said, "I didn't have time to go nowhere, I just grabbed a hold of the wall and held on."

Many residents were confused by the sirens going on and off, did "off" mean the danger was over? "We heard the siren two or three times. It would sound off and it would quit. We were getting ready to get out of the building when it hit."

Even the local weather caster wasn't exactly sure why the siren sounded multiple times. He suggested that some communities cannot run their sirens continuously because their motors will burn up.

Bottom Line
Find out the siren policy for your town. Will the motor burn up or will the sirens continue to sound so long as the danger will last?


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