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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Why tornado sirens aren't the best way to learn of tornadoes.

Tornado sirens are old technology but may still have a place in the decision-making process (as long as it's not the only place).

Tornado Sirens. 

When a tornado hits, the first controversy to arise before the power is back on is whether or not the tornado sirens sounded with enough time. 

The history of tornado sirens can be traced back to the 1970s when emergency managers re-purposed World War 2 sirens to warn residents of tornadoes.  

Tornado sirens were never designed to be heard indoors. In fact, in many newer homes you can't hear them indoors. They were designed to get people outside to move inside when dangerous weather threatens. 

Sirens should never be your first and only source for weather information.

Some communities in our area have invested in the older technology; sirens aren't cheap... usually between 20 and 30-thousand per siren. 

A study after the Joplin tornado found that many residents either ignored the tornado sirens or were confused when they sounded multiple times. 

In interviews conducted with the National Weather Service after the tornado hit Joplin included statements like the following:

“storms always blowing over and missing Joplin” 

"seemed like there was a “protective bubble” 

“hear sirens all the time and [sirens] go off for dark clouds,”

“bombarded with [sirens] so often that we don’t pay attention”, “

The interviews showed that many had become desensitized to sirens and many held inaccurate weather views that storms "go around" or "fizzle" when they approach the town.

Many towns locally don't even have tornado sirens. Bella Vista's policy reflects the change in technology and the multiple ways to receive warnings aside from sirens. 

You can be prepared by having two sources for weather information, TV, weather radios, cell phone alerts, social media, or even our 5NEWS App which will push warnings to where you live.

-Garrett