Weather sirens in need of an upgrade

Weather

When a severe storm approaches, they make an unmistakable sound that can be heard up to one mile away. But, are weather sirens, many of them installed in the 1940s and 1950s, still needed in the year 2018?

The people of Waynedale say the sirens are an important layer of protection when a tornado may be on the way.

Back in the fall of 2017, a brand new emergency weather siren was installed in Waynedale, the result of multi-year, community-led effort. For many, it was a sigh of relief after they discovered the old siren had been down for nearly a decade. Jordan Cornwell, President of the Waynedale Business Chamber, said that once the community became aware of the non-functioning siren, many businesses stepped up and donated the $5,000 needed for part of the siren. After gathering the money and roughly 1700 signatures from the people of Waynedale, Allen County cipped in the rest for the $25,000 siren. It became operational in November of 2017.

The newest siren in Waynedale brings the total in Allen County to 55. Each county in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio manages their own network. According to the data we’ve received from emergency managers, there are over 370 total sirens spread out through our counties, most located near areas of denser population. Each siren has a range of up to 1 mile. The following is a breakdown of how many sirens are present in each county:

  • Adams – 14

  • Allen – 55

  • Blackford – N/A

  • Defiance – N/A

  • DeKalb – 29

  • Grant – 31

  • Huntington – 16

  • Jay – 9

  • Kosciusko – 22

  • LaGrange – 9

  • Noble – 39

  • Paulding – 24

  • Steuben – 33

  • Van Wert – 19

  • Wabash – 12

  • Wells – 6

  • Whitley – 11

  • Williams – 45

One common misconception many people have is that they’re supposed to be able to hear the weather sirens inside their home. That’s not true. They are designed to be heard if you’re outside, prompting you to get inside to your safe place. 

Allen County sirens are synchronized as “all-go or no-go”, meaning that in the case of a tornado warning, all sirens will sound when triggered from the 911 emergency center in downtown Fort Wayne. The sirens are tested on the first Wednesday of every month at noon if the weather permits (as long as it’s not storming). According to Beier, at least 1 or 2 sirens fail the test every month – the result of an aging system in need of an upgrade.

Beier says that system-wide, it will likely be more than $1.5 million to upgrade and keep the system currently in place. He says that decision to upgrade or not can’t be answered without considering the need for weather sirens. National data shows that the majority of the public does nothing when they hear the sirens go off. With alerts now available on smartphones, many people are looking for a secondary source to confirm that the siren is accurate. Beier did say that if the siren goes off a second or third time, an anomaly has been created and the public is more likely to take action. 

Jordan Cornwell and the Waynedale community says that despite the many things that can go wrong with TVs, weather radios, and cell phones, the weather siren is always supposed to be there as an important, added layer of security. Bernie Beier says that Waynedale answered the need for sirens loud and clear in 2017. That same discussion will now need to take place in communities throughout the area over the next 2-3 years.

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