This is the first in a 3-part blog series on the outdoor warning sirens in Shelby County. This first entry examines the role of the EMA during severe weather, including the sounding of the sirens. The second installment will focus on the intent of outdoor warning sirens, what they are designed to do, and NOT to do. The answers may surprise you. We'll conclude with a look at the future of warning technology, including sirens, in part 3.
Though the siren system was originally designed to warn the public of air raids during World War II, then nuclear fallout during the Cold War, the practice of using sirens to warn of severe weather dates back decades, well before the NWS began issuing polygon warnings that didn't encompass entire counties. That NWS policy change occurred in 2007.
The EMA Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is staffed by dispatchers around-the-clock, handling all sorts of calls for emergency response. Their busiest period is typically during severe weather. In the EOC, a computer running weather messaging software is constantly ingesting bulletins from the Memphis NWS office via satellite (with internet backup) and processing them for any watches and warnings. (Backup systems are also in place in case of a failure of the primary computer, including Weather Radio, statewide emergency communications, and local broadcast television.) In the event of a watch or warning, a pop-up on the dispatcher's terminal immediately displays the text of the alert.
|Photo credit: metrolic.com|
Stay with us later this week as we examine the use of outdoor sirens in part 2 of this 3-part blog series.
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