The Dale County Emergency Management agency has recently adjusted its policy regarding severe weather sirens. "Our goal is to provide the citizens of Dale County with the most effective warning possible", said EMA Director Robert Marsh. In the past, the policy was to only test the sirens in the "silent mode" to avoid undue public alarm. The "full warning mode" was activated only when the area was under an actual tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service in Tallahassee. "Dale County has been very fortunate over the past 2 years, as we have not had to activate the system very often for actual tornados," Marsh said. "While that is good for us, it means that the weather sirens were not allowed to fully cycle through, which led to expensive breakdowns." After consulting with the siren's manufacturer and maintenance personnel, it was determined that the system should be silent tested once a week, and live tested at least once per month to insure optimum operation. The Dale County EMA office will live test the system of 18 weather sirens on the first Saturday of every month at 12:00 noon, beginning June 7, 2008. The sirens should wail for 1 to 3 minutes. The test will NOT be conducted if the county is under a severe weather watch at the time.
It is important to note that this is an outdoor warning system. The sirens are not designed to be heard indoors, but rather to warn people outdoors of impending severe weather so they can seek shelter and turn on radio or television broadcasts for further information. The best means of early warning of tornados and severe thunderstorms is a NOAA weather alert radio in each home and business. Also, keep in mind that the sirens in Dale County are activated during severe weather only if an actual tornado has been spotted, either on radar or by a trained storm spotter. Sirens are not activated for severe thunderstorm warnings, which can cause damage by micro bursts, downdrafts, and straight line winds, which are not usually seen on radar. A tornado can also suddenly develop from a thunderstorm before the warning can go out. Don't assume you are safe just because you do not hear a weather alert.
The Director added, "although we realize the live test once a month may cause inconvenience for some citizens, the EMA and the Dale County Commission believe it is in the best interest of the public's safety to test the reliability of our system regularly."