Sirens help, but they're not a first line of defense in severe-storm warnings


Hancock County has more than two dozen warning sirens. Their sound - under optimal conditions- can be heard for about a mile. That leaves many people out of range of the warning systems. Emergency management officials say the best warning system is a battery-powered weather radio. (Kyle Lewis/Daily Reporter)

Dave Riley of All Hazard Warning Technologies services a siren in Greenfield. Upkeep on the sirens can be expensive for local governments. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — For those who live in earshot of a tornado siren, the blaring warning seems like it should be able to be heard for miles.

But when it comes to alerting Hancock County residents to the danger of approaching storms, experts say the antiquated system serves a last resort. With tornado season just around the corner, public safety officials are in the process of making sure the county’s outdoor warning system is up and running properly. At the same time, they’re reminding citizens that tornado sirens shouldn’t be their primary means of monitoring the weather.

The siren tones can be heard by people outdoors from a radius of only about one mile, and that’s under perfect conditions – meaning no obstructions and no noise (including the roar of a twister barreling down), Hancock County emergency management director Larry Ervin said.

“It’s a continuing problem that people are continuing to rely on the tornado sirens,” said Ervin, who recommends citizens invest in a weather radio. “Obviously, they’re an important part of the system, but they are not the most effective means of getting your warning.”

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