Fire siren patterns warn responders and public about tornadoes, disasters
In May, 2011, severe thunderstorms with rotation were approaching from Hampshire County, according to a National Weather Service call to the Morgan County 911 Dispatch Center. The house sirens for each county fire department were activated to alert residents and emergency personnel to the threat of a possible tornado.
The Emergency Alert System siren pattern heard during the tornado warning that day was at a much faster pace and was two to three times longer than the siren for a normal fire or emergency services call, Morgan County Emergency Services Director Dave Michael said.
Emergency alert pattern
Michael sounded the Emergency Alert Sirens (EAS) three different times during the tornado warning, at approximately five-minute intervals, their protocol for getting the attention of the public and responders about a potential serious emergency.
The primary purpose of the Emergency Alert System sirens is to awaken or alert the public during the day or night that something serious is happening. Once so alerted, they should be assessing all sources of information for their personal safety, Michael said.
Residents should first check their surroundings to make sure they aren’t in immediate personal danger from a fire, tornado or other impending disaster, he said.
Weather radio advised
Michael urged people to invest in a NOAA weather alert radio that receives National Weather Service severe weather reports for their family’s safety. The radio has codes that can be set to activate only when severe weather is approaching Morgan County, he said.
People can also follow National Weather Service warnings online or by radio or television or download applications to receive the warnings on their cell phone.
Michael advised residents to not rely on the fire sirens being activated in emergency weather situations because he and 911 dispatchers could be swamped with emergency calls, which are their priority.
During the tornado warnings in May, 2011, they received 126 calls within a two-hour period, Michael said. Three or four of them were regular ambulance calls for medical emergencies. Each call took a minute or two while the other lines were ringing off the hook.
Severe weather safety
Michael advised that people keep checking their surroundings if severe weather is forecast.
During a tornado warning, people’s first priority should be to move to a safe location in their home, such as a basement or interior bathroom/room, to ensure their safety, Michael said.
Take a portable phone to your safe room and then call family and friends in the affected area to alert them to the weather emergency, he said.