To recap, outdoor warning sirens are sounded continuously countywide whenever any portion of the county is included in a Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service (NWS). These outdoor warning sirens are NOT referred to strictly as tornado sirens for a reason: it is not fully descriptive of the mission they serve. From the MSCEMA website (http://www.mscema.org - emphasis added): "[Outdoor warning] sirens are designed to be an early warning device primarily for persons who are outside away from the television and/or radio."
As stated above and repeated many times by MemphisWeather.net, these are OUTDOOR sirens. They can be extremely useful if one is working or recreating outside and severe weather threatens. When sirens sound, you should seek out additional information on the threat. This can be done in a number of ways, but the most common are to tune into local radio or television, check local weather websites or properly-equipped smartphone apps, and/or turn on NOAA Weather Radio (which should have also sounded an alarm when the sirens sounded). If none of these additional information sources is available, you should take adequate cover until the sirens cease.
|Photo credit: MWN|
Smithville, MS warning siren
The bottom line is this: sirens are designed to alert those outdoors to the threat of severe weather and encourage them to seek additional information. Do NOT call local authorities, including the EMA, if you aren't woken up by a siren or you didn't hear it inside, UNLESS you are fairly certain that a nearby siren that you have heard under those circumstances before is not operating properly (i.e., fails to sound). Click here for a list of all sirens and the person to contact in case of siren failure ONLY.
In the third installment of this series, we will examine the future of warning technology - from sirens to smartphone apps - in an age of polygon warnings.
For weather information for Memphis and the Mid-South, where and when you need it, visit MemphisWeather.net on the web, m.memphisweather.net on your mobile phone, download our iPhone or Android apps, or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.