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5th Season: Outdoor emergency sirens

Updated: Mar. 12, 2021 at 7:51 PM CST
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TEXOMA, Okla. (TNN) - It’s timeless sound that we’ve all heard. A civil defense or air-raid siren, more commonly known as a tornado siren here in Texoma.

But do you really know what the parameters are for why sirens sound?

I spoke with several officials across the area to find the answers.

This high-pitched sound has been wailing through cities to warn those of danger during severe weather for decades.

Initially used during the Cold War to warn citizens of air-raid or nuclear attacks, it wasn’t until the 1970s when the sirens purpose shifted into an alert system for severe weather.

While many cities and towns have these warning systems not everyone has the same protocol for actually sounding the siren. I spoke with several emergency managers across Texoma to find out why they make call to warn people during severe weather.

In Altus, Wayne Cain, the Director of Emergency Management says he wants residents to know when the storm sirens go off you need to do something immediately.

“To me, that’s a crucial part of this. When you hear that siren, it’s not a wind storm, it’s not gonna be a hail storm, this is going to be a tornado,” Cain said.

And while their main concern is sounding the siren during tornadic events Assistant Emergency Manager Bobby Henry says there are very rare cases when it will also be sounded for strong winds or hail.

Comanche County Emergency Manager Michael Merritt confirmed the siren will sound in Lawton during tornadic events but that’s not all.

“We have criteria that we can have rotation, we have to verify that rotation. 70 mile per hour, straight line winds sustained, we don’t take into effect gusts,” Merritt said.

“We can have the National Weather Service issue a warning. If they issue a warning, then we go ahead and sound them that way”

Jerome McCalvin, Emergency Manager Director for the City of Marlow monitors several radar sites for tornadic activity and has several trained spotters across town sending reports back to him.

He also added for siren activation, the wind speed would need to be at 80 miles per hour.

As you can see, not every city or town has the same reason for sounding the siren but there is a common thread.

The goal of the siren is to alert those who are outside, not indoors.

Once the siren is heard, after seeking shelter, the next step is to find out why the siren is going off. Tune in to the First Alert Weather Team and download the First Alert 7 Weather App for further information.

I spoke to several other cities and towns across Texoma to see what their parameters were. On your screen now are just a few who reached out back to me.

If you don’t see your town and you’re wondering about your specific parameters are, you can reach out to your local emergency management department.

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