Make sure sirens are heeded

June 4, 2013 

In an age of up-to-the-minute weather forecasting, tornado warning sirens are antiquated technology.

It doesn't help that St. Clair County takes a blanket approach to using them.

Case in point was Thursday, when a tornado was spotted near Marissa --and the sirens were sounded throughout the county. Herb Simmons, director of St. Clair County's 911, said a tornado's path can be unpredictable: "If we're going to err, it's going to be on the side of caution."

But it's foolish, not cautious, to sound the sirens in Caseyville when the tornado is 38 miles away in Marissa.

Too frequent warnings, or warnings when there is no danger nearby, can be dangerous also. A U.S. government report released after the devastating Joplin tornado concluded that perceived frequent use of tornado sirens had left many people desensitized or complacent. A lot of people did not take cover at the first alerts.

Weather forecasts today are very precise. TV regularly can pinpoint the path of a storm and how many minutes away it is from a particular location.

Sirens need to be more precise, also, so that when they sound, people's first response is: "Time to take cover," rather than, "Ho, hum, nothing to worry about."

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