Good News: New warning sirens installed as city grows

Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 10:01 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2023 at 10:27 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - When our area becomes threatened by dangerous weather, there are many ways the public can be warned including outdoor warning sirens.

New sirens are being installed as the city grows, but there may be a few misconceptions concerning their purpose.

As our metro area grows, new outdoor emergency sirens are being installed, which is good news, but better news is the opportunity to better explain what their purpose is.

The purpose and function of warning sirens can be confusing and sometimes completely misunderstood.

Some communities activate the sirens for different reasons, not just confirmed tornadoes. Some cities like Lubbock, don’t even use a warning siren system.

So with additional sirens being installed in new housing developments between Amarillo and Canyon and south of Bushland, this is a very good time to learn exactly what they are meant for.

“So the outdoor sirens would be sounded for a number of reasons. One, of course, is tornado notifications,” said Max Dunlap, director of Emergency Mangement.

This may come as a surprise, but the sirens may also be sounded for hail.

”Another reason that the sirens would be sounded is for hail and excessive two inches,” Dunlap said.

A siren activation may not even be weather related.

“A third example that they could be sounded for is a hazmat situation in the neighborhood,” Dunlap said.

A very important fact is that the sirens are not intended to be your first warning, or even designed to be heard if you are indoors.

Some people may think that there is no tornado unless there is a siren sounding.

“Sirens are great, but they are 1950s technology, they were designed mostly for warning people outdoors. Since the 1950s, construction has changed so much for houses and buildings that you’re unlikely to hear them indoors,” said NewsChannel 10 First Alert Meteorologist Kevin Selle.

It’s when you haven’t been tuned in and you step outside someplace. Maybe you’ve been to a grocery store, a movie theater, a ball game, or even working outside your house without the TV on. Those are the situations that outdoor warning sirens are expected to alert you.

If you’re in your house, you might not even hear an outdoor siren, so they’re not expected or designed to be the primary way to get you warning information.

If you happen to hear an outdoor warning siren activated, all that really means is that you need to get more information. If there’s a tornado warning, we will already be over that situation on TV.

“Every event somewhere, somebody says ‘I didn’t hear them’ and that’s the whole point of the whole thing. Yeah, you might hear them, but you need those multiple sources,” Selle said.

New outdoor warning sirens and hopefully, a better understanding of exactly what they are and what they are not supposed to do for the public. That’s all good news.