Emergency official: Warning sirens are not just for tornadoes

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Adam Lumsden works at his station at the 911 operations center in Alpena on Friday. Staff at the center are able to activate the city’s emergency alert sirens.

ALPENA — Many people associate the city’s emergency alert sirens with tornadoes, but 911 staffers can sound the alarms for other emergencies that put public safety at risk.

When residents hear the sirens, Alpena County Emergency Services Coordinator Mark Hall said, it’s important that they quickly identify what the warning is for and take recommended action.

Hall said the only times the sirens are activated — other than for their monthly test at 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month — is after an official warning of some sort. Most of the time, those warnings are weather-related, such as a severe thunderstorm, tornado, blizzard, or flooding. The sirens were sounded for a severe thunderstorm a week ago.

But officials can also put the system use for other emergencies, such as hazardous material spills.

“When the signal goes off, it is important for people to identify what it is for from either the Weather Channel or local news,” Hall said. “With today’s technology, we are able to detect an emergency often well in advance, so, just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean you should wait until you do. Take action right away.”

Seven sirens are scattered around the county, capable of alerting most residents. There are areas, however, where people can’t hear a siren, Hall said, and that is why improvements to the 911 center are in the works.

“People will be able to log onto the website, enter some simple information, and receive notifications via text, email, phone calls, or however they choose,” Hall said. “People can select more than one way to be notified, as well.”

Hall said the alerts are only activated when emergency officials deem the situation legitimately life-threatening.

“It is always done when there is a warning, and never for a watch or advisory,” Hall said. “If you hear them, you need to know it is something you should be worried about and do what you need to to protect yourselves and your friends and family.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.


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