UPDATE: Autauga County weather siren issues fixed ahead of severe weather

Updated: Mar. 24, 2021 at 4:32 PM CDT
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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The day after this article was published, the EMA’s office confirmed the system has been fixed.]

Original article:

AUTAUGA COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - With another round of severe weather possible Thursday, Alabamians should be extra aware of developments, especially those in the Autauga County area where the local EMA is still dealing with weather siren issues.

Autauga County Emergency Management Director Ernie Baggett laid out the issues in a live on-air interview with WSFA First Alert Chief Meteorologist Josh Johnson during last Wednesday’s severe weather coverage.

It used to be when the National Weather Service issued a warning for a county, every siren in that county would blare despite some areas not being in any danger.

Now, through a sophisticated system that targets only sirens within a NWS warning polygon, only specific sirens activate. “It works flawlessly about 90 percent of the time,” the EMA director said, admitting it has had issues in the past.

Wednesday’s issues began with NWS tornado warnings that should have sounded several Autauga County sirens. From the EMA’s office, it appeared the system worked. But some residents sounded alarms of their own about the silence they were getting.

Once aware, the EMA’s office worked to manually fire sirens in those affected areas, a process that can take several critical minutes.

In the week that has passed, Baggett said the EMA’s office has checked sirens for mechanical or radio issues. “They’re all working properly,” he said, turning his attention to the next likely cause: software.

The EMA’s office has contacted the software developer in charge of the polygon program but has yet to nail down a timeframe on when the issue may be resolved.

Further, Autauga County is just one of many counties that use the software system. While no other county has indicated issues from Wednesday’s storms, it’s another reason why residents should always find multiple ways of being alerted to severe weather, not just from dependence on a siren.

While last week’s storm has passed and more will brew in the future, Baggett said his team is ready with a designated person watching specifically for this issue in case there’s a need to manually sound the alarms again.

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