A word on Tornado Warnings and outdoor warning sirens

There is always a lot of confusion regarding the sounding of “tornado sirens” during severe weather.  Here is some information that might help:

1. Tornado Warnings are not issued by county, they are issued by polygon, meaning that the track of the storm is identified and a box is placed around the track.  Whatever counties that box intersects (no matter how much or what part of the county), the county is considered “warned.”
2. In most areas, including Shelby County, outdoor warning sirens are activated by Emergency Management Agency officials or other designated agencies, such as area fire departments.  The sirens are almost always sounded COUNTY-WIDE when a polygon/warning touches that county, even if the entire county is not in the path of the storm.
3. The sirens will continue until the warning expires or is cancelled (sometimes even continuing until the original expiration time, even if the warning is cancelled early).  They do not stop when the threat has passed the immediate area if the warning is still in effect.
4. The sirens are OUTDOOR warning sirens.  They are meant to alert people outdoors to go inside and find out where the threat is then take cover.  Please don’t complain that “I didn’t hear the sirens” when you are inside with the TV or entertainment system on, etc.  If you are inside and there is a threat, be tuned in to local media or other information trusted sources, especially if you know you can’t hear sirens well inside your home.

There has been a great deal of confusion on the subject and a sense by the public of “overwarning,” however this is the way it works (for now). If a warning is in effect for Collierville and you are in Millington, your sirens will sound.  Do NOT become siren-weary or start ignoring the sirens because “the storms are never in my area” or “those things always go off for nothing.”  The next one could be for a storm approaching your home!

In the meantime, hopefully city and county officials will understand the issues that county-wide warnings pose and come up with a reasonable solution.  They are out there, but some are very costly to implement.  For more information on the warning sirens in Shelby County, check out MWN’s new Outdoor Warning Sirens page.

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