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City changes siren notification and testing policy - Testing begins February 27

Following the May 22, 2011 tornado, City officials noted several types of reactions to the storm sirens which prompted discussions and review of Joplin’s storm siren policy to determine best practice uses of this technology.

Emergency Manager Keith Stammer and Fire Chief Mitch Randles presented their findings at the February 21 City Council meeting to Council members and viewers at home to notify them about the storm siren policy changes that will occur immediately in response to their research.

“We worked with several weather agencies to learn what our citizens knew about the storm sirens on the day of the tornado, and how they reacted to its sounding,” said Stammer. “With this information, we are making changes to our siren sounding policy as well as upgrading the technology of our sirens with the goal that people take IMMEDIATE cover upon hearing a siren.”

Following the May 22, 2011 tornado, numerous reports from citizens noted that the second sounding of the storm siren created their awareness and urgency to take cover. Other citizens commented that they heard the sirens all of the time and didn’t take the warnings seriously, and yet some even said they thought the second siren sounding was an “all clear” notification.

To eliminate numerous soundings as part of the tests, the City looked at different options, and has announced the following changes:

  • Siren testing will now be conducted only on the first and third Monday morning of each month, (weather permitting) at 10 am. This testing is for one minute and is NOT conducted when threatening weather is in the area. The first test will be conducted on Monday, March 5.
  • When activated for due to storm alerts, the siren consists of a steady tone for duration of three minutes. A second siren activation will now occur IF the initial warning had been sounded more than ten minutes prior to the warned storm system’s arrival to the city. The second activation will be another three-minute sounding.
  • The City reminds residents that there will be NO “all clear” sounded by the sirens.
  • To prepare for the severe weather season, the City will need to test each siren individually. These tests will be conducted during the week of February 27, and will occur throughout the week, weather permitting. The purpose of these tests is to ascertain the condition of the siren batteries and facilitate any repairs, if needed.

Outdoor warning sirens are activated when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for Jasper County, Newton County and/or Cherokee County, Kansas with a storm path including the City of Joplin or when receiving a report from a trained spotter of a funnel or tornado sighted in or approaching Joplin.

Outdoor warning sirens will also be activated when the National Weather Service reports a storm system approaching Joplin producing sustained winds of 75 miles per hour (mph) or greater.

Keith Stammer, Emergency Management Director, reminds people that the siren warning is an alert for people who are outside, and is not designed to be heard from indoors.

“The sirens provide a warning for anyone who is out of doors to go indoors, if possible, and take shelter,” he said. “People indoors cannot always expect to hear the outdoor warning sirens.”

Stammer encourages residents to utilize a NOAA Weather Radio that provides a warning signal when the area is under a watch or a warning. “The advantage of having a weather radio is that you hear the alerts directly from the National Weather Service, and are kept current of the warning status.” Weather radios are available at local retailers and are priced at approximately $30.

Stammer also encourages people to watch the local television channels for updates and information about specific locations of storms. For more information, call 417-623-5858.

Important Safety Information: 

  • TORNADO WATCH means watch the sky! TORNADO WARNING means seek shelter immediately.
  • SHELTER: Immediately go to an interior room with NO windows on the lowest possible floor. If you are at school or work DO NOT GO to a cafeteria, gymnasium or large interior open space because the roof might collapse.
  • LEAVE MOBILE HOMES IMMEDIATELY -- seek shelter in a nearby building or in a ditch.
  • DRIVING: Take shelter in a nearby building, in a ditch or low-lying area away from your car. If you are outside, remember to cover your head with your arms, coat or blanket to protect yourself from flying debris. Also watch for flash flooding. Never try to out drive a tornado.
  • OVERPASSES Are NOT Safe -- An overpass’s under-the-girder-type construction can cause a dangerous wind tunnel effect. This may cause the winds to be stronger and more focused underneath. This can also cause the overpass to be a collector of debris.
  • FLASH FLOODING OR WATER ON THE ROAD: During a thunderstorm, low-lying areas are prone to flash flooding. Never drive into water on the road. If your car stalls, get out of your car immediately and seek higher ground. It takes less than two feet of water to make your car float. Once floating downstream, your car can overturn trapping you inside.