Eric: Should we get rid of tornado sirens altogether?

Eric: Should we get rid of tornado sirens altogether?
Should we get ride of tornado sirens altogether? (Source: WSFA 12 News stock photo)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery Emergency Management Agency says it is working to correct issues with one of its outdoor weather sirens in south Montgomery. The siren apparently didn't go off for Sunday's Tornado Warning. It's a familiar story we've reported on a number of times before, and it begs the question, should we get rid of tornado sirens altogether?

Here's the argument: Outdoor warning sirens are meant to be heard, wait for it, outdoors. I don't know about you, but if there's an intense thunderstorm overhead, I'm not rushing to stand outside. Strong thunderstorms also have an annoying tendency of being really loud (especially if there's a tornado roaring along). So now we have a siren wailing away that very few people are ever going to hear. That's a scary prospect when lives are at stake.

Look, there's no doubt that tornado sirens have saved countless lives through the years. There was a time when this technology was the best we had but it's 2018. We have weather radios, smartphone apps and a multitude of more reliable ways to hear weather warnings.

I don't think anyone reading this would seek medical treatment that was state of the art 50-years-ago. While it may still technically be "effective", it's not the best treatment option available. Give me the best you've got right now and when you get something even better, give me that.

Complicating matters is the fact that old habits die hard. Some people don't have weather radios, either by choice or because it's cost prohibitive. Not everyone has an internet-connected smartphone. Should we ignore these people for the sake of forward progress? Absolutely not.

This population is just as important as the group who maximize their weather safety. While you're rolling the dice relying strictly on a tornado siren (between the sound issue already discussed and reliability concerns), it's probably still better than nothing. There's no arguing the success rate of tornado sirens is going to be significantly lower than current methods. But if you assume getting rid of sirens will inherently mean everyone out there relying on them will go out and purchase a weather radio...you're wrong. Some will because we forced their hand. Some won't because we forced their hand.

Change takes time. I'm confident that our population will continue to slowly drift away from tornado sirens and toward more reliable technology. We're not there yet and until we get there, it doesn't bother me one bit to still support an outdated dinosaur of weather technology, .provided we're all on the same page of what we're really getting out of it.

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