Last week, nine months after a tornado devastated the city, the Joplin City Council approved major changes in its policies regarding activation and testing of storm sirens. The city's storm sirens will be upgraded to allow for silent testing and the ability to activate sirens individually or in groups. The changes were approved in response to a National Weather Service study that evaluated how Joplin residents responded to the sirens that were sounded before the May 22, 2011, tornado. Many residents who were interviewed said they delayed taking cover or did not take cover at all because they "hear sirens all the time."
During a Cassville City Council meeting held on Feb. 21, Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr reported that Cassville's storm sirens cannot be converted to narrow band frequency, which has been mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In order to continue using the warning system, Cassville's storm sirens will need to be replaced. During her presentation, Kammerlohr also reported that many local residents fail to heed the warning sound of sirens and take cover during severe weather.
I believe storm sirens are a great investment for our city and that community members need to receive a warning when traveling through town or working outside their homes. I also believe that we each have a responsibility to listen to and respond to storm sirens, as well as warnings issued by television and radio broadcasters. It might seem silly to hide away in a basement or closet during a thunderstorm, but the alternative is unthinkable. Besides, families can use warnings as a way to evaluate their response plans or as a teaching tool for children. Kids should be aware of the damage that severe weather can cause, know how to protect themselves during emergencies and understand their family's current response plan.
As we approach severe weather season, I hope area families will take time to develop or review their severe weather response plans. In addition to determining a good location to take cover from a storm, families can develop emergency preparedness kits, which should provide supplies for each member of the household to survive for 72 hours without assistance.
As Kammerlohr said during her presentation last week, emergency responders do not sound sirens and warnings for no reason. Cassville's storm sirens are only set off when there is an immediate threat in the area. Storm spotters have identified a formation that could quickly develop into a tornado. Our local firefighters and other volunteers have placed themselves in dangerous situations to help warn the community about the threat. The only thing we have to do is respond to their warning by moving to a safe location.