Columbus Officials To Examine Tornado Siren Use

Officials say Columbus residents are confused about what sirens mean or have become complacent about possible dangers.

Tornado siren

Photo: Michael W. Moss - The Siren Archive

Columbus sirens warn of both tornadoes and severe thunderstorms under different circumstances.

The Columbus Board of Public Works plans to vote Tuesday on whether to change its policy on when the city’s emergency sirens go off. Officials say because the sirens are sounded so often, residents aren’t heading to safety in the most dangerous situations.

The city sounds its emergency systems when there’s a tornado warning, but also if there’s a combination of a tornado watch and a severe thunderstorm warning. Currently, residents have no way to tell the difference.

“I have observed that personally that many time people just go on about their merry way, so to speak,” says Bartholomew County Emergency Management director Dennis Moats. He says the emergency policy is outdated.

“They’re warnings are more frequent than what they used to be based on technology. And if we have a policy in there that used to make sense years ago, we’re just adding to the confusion.”

Susan Fye sits on the Board of Public Works and she says while most of the comments she’s heard support the policy change, some people would like the sirens to be used in other situations, including floods.

“They’re concerns are what would be done or what are the possibilities for other emergency situations if the tornado sirens were only blown during tornado warnings,” Fye says.

Fye says she expects the board to approve the change during Tuesday’s meeting.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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