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Are tornado sirens done for? | Alerting Arkansas

Are tornado sirens becoming a thing of the past? Some still use them as their primary source of warning residents in 5COUNTRY.

ARKANSAS, USA — Whenever you think of tornadoes, what do you think of first? The clap of thunder, whistling wind gusts, dark clouds, or what about the screaming tornado sirens? Originally designed for enemy attack, tornado sirens have long been repurposed as a warning system when severe weather becomes a threat to the public.

With Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley being a hot spot for severe weather, warning the public is vital. So we asked the question, "Are tornado sirens the best option?" 

We spoke with Emergency Management Directors for Washington County and Sebastian County, and they both have similar and different views on the question at hand. 

Washington County has not owned or operated a tornado siren for the last decade. The reasoning is that those sirens were not designed for people indoors, but rather for people who were outdoors. The sound of a tornado siren can be muffled and rendered useless by the thick walls of buildings. Washington County has replaced those sirens by using mobile alerts to warn residents of hazardous weather. 

It's important to note that the University of Arkansas does own and operate tornado sirens on campus in Washington County.  

Sebastian County has long used the traditional tornado sirens as their primary source of warning their residents of severe weather. Emergency Management Director Kendall Beam says, "Will there be a day where tornado sirens aren't used anymore? I'd say that's a good possibility." 

Sebastian County recently purchased a mass messaging system, similar to Washington County.

Tornado sirens may become a thing of the past soon, as technology continues to advance. Still, some counties across 5COUNTRY will continue to use them as the primary source to warn people of threatening weather. 

To find out more visit the Washington County EMA website or the Sebastian County Emergency Management Services website.

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