Tornado Policy Updated




There has been a lot of talk out there about tornado sirens and their use.  I have been working hard on getting the word out to everyone that tornado sirens are NOT intended to warn people indoors.  You must have a way to receive warnings via NOAA weather radio, WeatherCall 7, etc.  A secondary source is also encouraged as a back up in case your primary source fails.
Think about it...  how are you going to hear the sirens indoors while you're sleeping or a loud thunderstorm is overhead?  Also, did you know the National Weather Service does NOT activate those sirens?  They are controlled by local county officials.  The NWS in North Little Rock only acts in an advisory role for Pulaski county.

I thought it would be a good idea to find out the policy for each county in the state. About a week ago, in cooperation with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, I sent this email to all county Emergency Managers across Arkansas.  Only a handful responded.  It's very interesting to see how each county approaches the use of sirens.  Some don't even have them.  If you have any further questions, I recommend contacting your local officials.  Thanks to all the Emergency Managers who responded!

"I am conducting a survey of all the county Emergency Managers in Arkansas.

In a brief email, could you explain your policy in regards to the activation of tornado sirens.

Do you sound them when your entire county is placed under a tornado warning?

Do you have the ability to sound only the sirens which fall within the National Weather Service warning polygon?

If a citizen of your county reports a tornado or funnel cloud, do you sound the sirens?

Does that person who reports that have to be a trained spotter or can it be anybody who calls it in?

Thanks for your participation.  I plan on placing these results on the Arkansas Weather Blog at katv.com.  With all the talk about severe weather and sirens, I thought it would be helpful for Arkansans to know the policy in their county."

Thanks,
Todd Yakoubian
Meteorologist
Little Rock, AR
KATV


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Ashley County

All the sirens in Ashley County are located in Incorporated areas. The sirens are controlled by the Mayor of each City/Town.
They are not controlled or sounded collectively, but at the discretion of each mayor. Generally they will sound the siren when informed by Law Enforcement or Spotters (Our Rescue Units) that a tornado has been located or spotted.
If a citizen reports a suspected tornado, we try to confirm it from trained Spotters in the County and report the location to the appropriate Mayors. They may also activate the sirens based on Doppler/NOAA Tornado Warnings from the internet.

Baxter County

Baxter County at this time sounds 32 Tornado Sirens when NWS issues a Tornado Warning for our County. We also utilize Alert X Press. This is all handled at our 911 center.

Benton County
  1. Reasons for Activation
    Municipalities have developed outdoor warning systems to alert and notify citizens in outdoor areas of emergency situations. These situations include but may not be limited to natural emergencies, transportation accidents involving hazardous materials, emergencies at fixed facilities, acts of terrorism or other catastrophic events in which the community needs to be informed immediately. Citizens in indoor areas should not mistakenly wait to hear a siren as their only source of warning information. A NOAA All Hazards Radio with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology, and the Benton County alert notification system (BC Alert) are good methods of receiving warning messages indoors. Additionally, some communities maintain other warning systems to alert citizens indoors.
  2. Activation Guidelines
    Even though communities vary in specific criteria for activating OWS, there are some commonalities in determining activation guidelines.
    The following are considered minimum activation guidelines:
    • Tornadic conditions are impacting or expected to impact the municipality.
    • Law enforcement, fire service, or a trained weather spotter reports a tornado in the municipality, or in a neighboring jurisdiction that has the potential to affect the municipality.
Clay county
Clay County doesn’t have weather siren’s.

However, some cities in Clay County (Corning, Piggott, Rector) have a limited number of siren’s which they own and control themselves. I’m not sure about the criteria they use to activate their siren’s.

Crawford County
    A municipality should make external notifications to neighboring jurisdictions indicating the OWS has been activated. Notification should also be made to the Benton County Emergency Operations Center.
        Crawford County Arkansas sounds all 22 warning sirens when a portion of the county is placed under a TORNADO WARNING by the National Weather Service.
·         Crawford County, Arkansas has the ability to sound a single siren, sound only the sirens in the City of Van Buren
·         This is depending on the warning polygon that is one of the reasons we sound all the sirens. See the answers above.
·         We do not sound the sirens if a citizen reports a tornado or funnel cloud until we provide that information to the Tulsa National Weather Service and they issue the warning.
·         The National Weather Service has been very accurate with its Server Weather Predictions.  We have been warned of Sever Weather as much as 2 to 3 days before the front moves through our county. Crawford County has been working with the media to promote NOAA Weather Radios with S.A.M.E. Technology and Battery Backup. We had our repeater, that sends the radio signal to the sirens, get knocked out by lightning last year and we were unable to sound the warning. We also emphasis they are OUTDOOR WARNING SYSTEMS that were designed during the cold war (40s & 50s) to tell those outdoors to take shelter because of nuclear attack. Also that they are hard to here indoors and during the storm.
·          We have encoders at two locations  in the event the primary one fails. The encoders to activate our Warning Siren System are at the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department (primary) or as a backup at the Alma Police Department.

City Of Conway

CEOC-20 USING THE EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM TO WARN OF AN EMERGENCY
I. Procedures
A. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a federally mandated warning system and is available for public safety, police, fire and emergency management use in case of an emergency or disaster and there is a need to notify the citizens of Faulkner County.
B. This system shall not be used except in cases of emergency or disaster and with the proper authorization.

1.       Authorization may only be granted by an employee of the City of Conway or the National Weather Service.

Do you sound them when your entire county is placed under a tornado warning? No, Just when a storm may contain the possibility of a tornado and Conway is in the path of the storm.

Do you have the ability to sound only the sirens which fall within the National Weather Service warning polygon? We just handle the sirens within the City of Conway.

If a citizen of your county reports a tornado or funnel cloud, do you sound the sirens? No, we rely on trained spotters/emergency personnel to confirm.

Does that person who reports that have to be a trained spotter or can it be anybody who calls it in? Anyone can call but, trained spotters or emergency personnel must confirm.

Cleburne County

We do not set every siren off in the county, just the ones that fall in the polygon that the warning is for. As far as a citizen reporting, we verify before we sound the sirens. A trained spotter calls it in, we do set off the sirens.

Crittenden County

The County dose not have them each city has the way they do this and i am not sure when they do it but it is the way the reports come out from NWS.  We do not get Little Rock station here.

Desha County

If the NWS issues a tornado warning for the areas that have sirens they are activated or if a first responder or spotter sees one it can be set off. Only about 30 to 40 % of population is covered.

Drew County

Drew County has no sirens or warning, we have been earmarked a $366,000 pre-mitigation grant in 2010, and in the final stages for approval.

Garland county

Do you sound them when your entire county is placed under a tornado warning?
We don't use sirens in Garland County.  Our decision is supported by a technical study which shows outdoor warning systems to be ineffective in our terrain and cost prohibitive.  Garland opted for the more inclusive indoor warnings and installed our own NOAA transmitter using FEMA mitigation funds.  Public outreach programs of any nature also include a weather response briefing and public education regarding warnings and watches for our area.  We have one of the best SkyWarn Teams in the state.  Diamond Lakes provide excellent weather information coordination during events impacting Garland and surrounding counties.  Garland was the first Storm Ready Community in the Little Rock warning area and is a recipient of the prestigious Mark Trail Award.
Do you have the ability to sound only the sirens which fall within the National Weather Service warning polygon?
Grant County

Grant County activates all sirens within the county when we are placed under a warning.  We do have the capability to sound each siren individually.
We will activate sirens if information is provided by our trained storm spotters.

Howard County

Only three cities have outdoor sirens Nashville,Mineral Springs & Dierks. They are responsible for the activation of their sirens.They would not normally activate them if a private citizen called in. They rely on the National Weather Service ,trained weather spotters or the OEM of Howard County to sound a warning.

Independence county

Independence County at one time had 24 sirens located thru out the county and had the ability to select a siren as needed, or sound all of them at once. As you know the sirens were only good for out door use and as the environment changed, we changed our outlook on how to alert the public. At this time we no longer use the sirens but use the Alert Express call system. This is a free sign up system, activated and maintained by the Emergency Management office and 911 dispatch center. We place the sign ups in their respective fire department areas and they are notified by fire coverage areas as needed. Either single or multiple areas can be notified by a phone call(landline or cells). We have a pre-recorded message on the template or can change as needed.

All weather reports that come into the 911 center are transferred over to the emergency operations center. In most cases the EOC has already been in contact with law enforcement and the fire department the storm will impact first and tries to get a confirmation of the report before we set the alert off. It gives us a better idea of the direction and content of the storm. Using TV and radar sites helps us get ahead and be ready as it approaches our county.

Izard county 

We are struggling with this issue at this time.  Currently the policy is that the 911 Dispatchers sound the alarms for the entire county anytime the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for any part of the county.

What this causes is unnecessary alarms in portions of the county.  For instance the last activation was for a tornado warning for the very south end of the county covering only the city of Mount Pleasant.  All alarms were sounded even though the rest of the county was in clear blue skies.  This causes the nursing homes and hospital to move patients even though there is no direct threat to them. 

We have discussed this with the Sheriff on two occasions and he has not modified the policy.  Their concern is that the weather warnings move as the storm pattern moves across the county.  Since the 911 dispatchers may be busy and miss a new warning his thought is that this is better than not warning someone. 

In addition we currently do not have an all clear signal. 

As I said, we are still working to improve our warning system at this time.  Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Jackson County

1.  Sirens are sounded when we receive notice from the
     National Weather Service of a tornado warning or a
     sighting of a funnel cloud is confirmed by the NWS.

2.  We do not have the ability to sound within the polygon.

3.  If a citizen sighting is reported we attempt to verify it
    with the NWS.

4.  We take calls from anyone, but with a NWS Trained
     Spotter we would place more credibility, but all calls
     are verified first with NWS.

Little Rock

It is the policy of the City of Little Rock to sound all Outdoor Warning Sirens whenever a Tornado Warning has been issued for any part of the city.  We do have the capability to sound only certain sirens, but by sounding all sirens we can ensure that citizens who may be outside or traveling to other parts of the City are aware that severe weather is in the area and they should take the necessary precautions.  Please let me know if you have any additional questions and the City of Little Rock appreciates the invaluable service the KATV Weather Team provides to our citizens.

Lonoke county

Lonoke County utilizes Code Red Weather Warning.

Perry County
Perry County only has 2 Sirens in the county they are both in the City of Perryville. It depends on the situation on how and when they are activated. If the weather service has a warning for the entire county or for the Perryville area they are activated. If a citizen calls in it is confirmed by a weather spotter before activated.

Pike county

We only have one siren in Pike County that is functional and it is in Glenwood Arkansas.  We are currently in our second year of the Code Red warning system.  Each person that signs up for the service gets a call when we are put under a severe thunderstorm warning, a tornado warning or a flash flood warning.  The service is paid for by the County and seems to be working well so far.  Storm spotters are out when any inclement weather event is anticipated or announced.  The city of Glenwood sound their siren, and sounding is determined by the police department or the fire department.  We are very rural in Pike County and the Code Red system has been deemed as the best solution for the citizens of Pike County

Poinsett county

Do you sound them when your entire county is placed under a tornado warning?    No, Trumann and Marked Tree has sirens.  West side from Harrisburg on Uses Code Red.

Do you have the ability to sound only the sirens which fall within the National Weather Service warning polygon?  Unknown

If a citizen of your county reports a tornado or funnel cloud, do you sound the sirens?   No, we send the local law enforcement to check the report.

Does that person who reports that have to be a trained spotter or can it be anybody who calls it in?  Yes a train spotter or law enforcement.

Pope County

Pope County has two sets of sirens to deal with.  There are the ones that are owned and set off by the Arkansas Department of Health.  Then there are the ones owned by a couple of cities in the county and are set off by the 9-1-1 Center.  At this time, we look at the polygon warning issued by the National Weather Service.  We also use trained weather spotters to provide us with information about the conditions in the field.  We do not have the capability to sound the sirens that are in the polygon alone.  We do not have siren coverage for the entire county.  If a citizen calls in and reports a funnel cloud, we would not sound the siren unless the weather service had a warning out for that area or a trained spotter or law enforcement officer was in the area.  We would still look into the possibility if a citizen were to call in with information pertaining to a possible funnel cloud. All sirens in the county would only be sounded at the same time if all areas were affected by the tornado warning.  If you need any other information from our county, please feel free to contact me at the information below. 

Saline County

This Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) outlines actions that should be taken by the Saline County 911 Dispatch Center (herein referred to as the Saline County 24-hour warning point) when circumstances dictate activation of the outdoor warning siren system in Saline County.

TEST AND ACTIVATION PROCEDURE:

  • Sirens should be tested every Wednesday at noon for approximately ONE MINUTE except during inclement weather. (If in doubt as whether to test the sirens, contact the on-call person for Saline County Emergency Management).
  • ACTIVATION PROCEDURE
  1. Click on safety icon; will show “unlock”
  2. Click on WX alert; siren will sound.
  • DEACTIVATION PROCEDURE
  1. Click on safety icon; will show “unlock”
  2. Click on WX cancel; siren will stop.

ACTIVATION PROCEDURES FOR REAL EMERGENCY EVENTS:

  1. Tornado WARNING (NOT a tornado WATCH)
  2. Nuclear attack
TORNADO WARNING PROCEDURE:

During severe weather, the public safety dispatcher shift supervisor will assign someone to monitor severe weather giving special attention to:
  • NAWAS phone line
  • Tone alert radio (TAR)
  • ACIC – weather statement
  • TV or radio (turn TV/radio on and volume low)
  • When the Saline County 24-hour warning point receives notification through the NAWAS; TAR; ACIC; radio or TV of a TORNADO WARNING anywhere in Saline County, the sirens should be activated immediately! There should be NO DELAY. Remember, this is an early warning system designed to give the citizen as much warning as possible so that they may take cover. If a tornado is in an adjoining county and headed toward Saline County, the dispatcher assigned to monitor the weather should consult with the shift supervisor regarding whether or not to activate the sirens. For example, if a tornado is in Garland, Hot Springs, or Grant County and headed toward Saline County – activate the sirens! Activation of the sirens based on phone calls of sightings is at the discretion of the shift supervisor. If the sighting is by someone in a position of authority such as, SCSO patrol personnel, SCSO commanders (Majors, Captains, Sheriff), the Saline County Judge, County Emergency Management Director or Deputy Director, then activate the sirens.
  • INSTRUCTION: Follow activation procedure as outlined above, (however, DO NOT CLICK ON WX CANCEL). Sirens will automatically time themselves out. Upon activation in real events, the sirens will time out automatically in three minutes. Sirens are only cancelled in tests.
NUCLEAR ATTACK PROCEDURE:
  • When the Saline County 24-hour warning point receives notification through the NAWAS; TAR; ACIC; radio or TV of a nuclear attack in the Continental United States, the sirens should be activated.
  • INSTRUCTION: Follow activation procedure as outlined above, (however DO NOT CLICK ON WX CANCEL). Sirens will automatically time themselves out. Upon activation in real events, the sirens will time out automatically in three minutes. Sirens are only cancelled in tests.
St. Francis County

In a brief email, could you explain your policy in regards to the activation of tornado sirens.
Each municipality in St. Francis County owns and is responsible for the activation of their weather sirens.  They have varying policies for who activates the siren (Police Dept or Fire Dept) but most only activate when their community has been listed in a TORNADO WARNING. 

Do you sound them when your entire county is placed under a tornado warning?
No, only when the affected community is within the tornado warning polygon

Do you have the ability to sound only the sirens which fall within the National Weather Service warning polygon?
Not all the communities in St. Francis County have weather sirens but of the ones that do have them, all but Forrest City only have 1 siren.  Forrest City has multiple sirens and they activate all sirens simultaneously.

If a citizen of your county reports a tornado or funnel cloud, do you sound the sirens?
No, only after a first responder verifies the sighting.  Most of our first responders are trained weather spotters and we continually encourage all first responders to attend and refresh with the NWS weather spotter course.

Does that person who reports that have to be a trained spotter or can it be anybody who calls it in?
Anyone does call in but activation occurs after verification.

Sevier county

We do sound our tornado sirens under a warning.  Yes we have the ability to activate our sirens where needed. We have several trained spotters in our county. When bad weather is in our area they call in the reports of any bad weather that is in our area.

Washington County

Washington County does not utilize sirens. We have Code Red for severe weather warning. It works by using the polygons that the NWS puts out with the  warnings. 

White county

Do you sound them when your entire county is placed under a tornado warning?

When White County is put under a warning we set off the entire county (we do not set off City of Searcy, Beebe or Bald Knob - they have their own to set off)

Do you have the ability to sound only the sirens which fall within the National Weather Service warning polygon?

     If a particular area of the county has a tornado siren we can set the siren for that area
If a citizen of your county reports a tornado or funnel cloud, do you sound the sirens?
      No - we do not - only when notified by the weather service - we do however dispatch a Deputy to the area

Does that person who reports that have to be a trained spotter or can it be anybody who calls it in?
      If we receive a 911 call from ANYONE who says they see a cloud or tornado we broadcast that information over our radio and have a deputy/officer respond to the area. If we have a confirmed tornado (trained spotter or deputy) on the ground we will set off the siren for any areas that may be effected
Thanks for your participation. I plan on placing these results on the Arkansas Weather Blog at katv.com. With all the talk about severe weather and sirens, I thought it would be helpful for Arkansans to know the policy in their county.

Woodruff County

The sirens in Woodruff County are set off by 911 when the National Weather Service places our county under a warning that is when 911 set them off, and that is when our trained spotters and myself go out to our different locations in the county for what ever area the warning covering like Augusta, McCrory, etc. Yes the sirens are in McCrory, Augusta, Patterson they all go off at the same time. The trained spotters if they see something they call into 911 other than that it is when the National Weather Service places our county under warning.

Yell County

Do you sound them when your entire county is placed under a tornado warning?

No, only when the siren coverage area is in the warning.

Yell County uses the nuclear sirens for the Dardanelle Area. The Nuclear sirens are places in the ten mile Nuclear Emergency Planning Zone and are the only warning system we have in place in the County. The other cities in Yell County who have sirens have their own siren program such as Danville and Plainview.

Do you have the ability to sound only the sirens which fall within the National Weather Service warning polygon?

No

If a citizen of your county reports a tornado or funnel cloud, do you sound the sirens?

No

Does that person who reports that have to be a trained spotter or can it be anybody who calls it in?

N/A
 ___________________________________________________________
Here's a late Thursday response from Clark county

In a brief email, could you explain your policy in regards to the activation of tornado sirens. In Clark County, our Tornado Sirens are activated when a warning is issued for the area that the siren is located. It can also be activated by the Sheriff, Police Chief, OEM Director or when any trained spotter has confirmation of a tornado. They may be exceptions based on case by case but this is the guidelines we operate under.
Do you sound them when your entire county is placed under a tornado warning?
No, Most warning are now very specific to an area. Only the impacted areas are warned.
Do you have the ability to sound only the sirens which fall within the National Weather Service warning polygon?
See Above
If a citizen of your county reports a tornado or funnel cloud, do you sound the sirens?
See Above
Does that person who reports that have to be a trained spotter or can it be anybody who calls it in?
See Above
Logan County
Logan County does not have storm sirens except the ones in the Eastern portion of our county. Those sirens are the property of the ANO Nuclear Plant (Entergy). They are for nuclear events, but can be used to alert weather warnings if needed. The City of Paris has tornado sirens and they are tested every Wednesday at noon. The City of Booneville also has tornado sirens and are activated on Wednesdays also. The small town of Ratcliff, AR are investigating sirens for their city now. The town of Magazine also has tornado sirens and are tested on Wednesdays. The County is in the process of possibly using Codespear ( AR. Dept. of Health)  for our rural residents, but are not there yet.

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