LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Severe weather season is upon us and a lot of people have been asking about the protocol for sounding the sirens in Comanche County.
There is not a county-wide policy. Lawton, Sterling, Elgin, Fletcher, Cache, Chattanooga, Geronimo and Fort Sill all have their own sirens. For each municipality, it is ultimately up to them to decide which qualifications merit sounding the alert.
In Lawton, the sirens will be sounded if there are straight-line winds measured at 70 mph or higher or if the city is in the path of a tornado.
Comanche County Emergency Management Director Michael Merritt says when it comes to sounding the sirens in Lawton, they can be set off within seconds.
"The time that we get confirmation of it to the time we set it off…it is the difference in us making contact with dispatch and it is pretty much immediate," Merritt explained.
Merritt says they confirm conditions by first seeing it on radar and then get final confirmation on the ground with storm spotters. He says the sirens are only meant to notify people who are outside of the weather conditions.
"If something pertinent comes up, the storm sirens are to notify you that 'hey, there is something going on. You need to go ahead and go inside and take cover.' Those people that are inside, they are not really meant to notify those people," Merritt explained.
Merritt says technology like smart phones and weather apps have almost made the sirens a thing of the past.
"When the National Weather Service sends out a warning, you should get that just as soon as that gets sent out. We also have a warning system throughout the county, Nixle, and when you subscribe to that you get all of our warnings that we put out," he said.
Merritt says the most frequent questions he gets asked are how long do the sirens sound and do you give an all clear.
"We don't necessarily give an all clear because it may not be all clear for everybody as it comes across, and with the City of Lawton we have to set them off all at the same time so you are getting all the way in west Lawton, all the way to east Lawton…they are going off at the same time," Merritt explained.
As for how long they sound those sirens, they will go off for three minutes.
Merritt says Comanche County Emergency Management is working to compile information from each town and Fort Sill, so they have a clear list of the protocol for setting off each municipality's tornado sirens.