County EMA surveys the effectiveness of tornado sirens

Published 4:49 pm Monday, June 2, 2014

The Chilton County Emergency Management Agency hopes to determine the effectiveness of tornado sirens with a short survey circulated through social media outlets.

“I am trying to reach everyone,” Chilton County EMA Director Derrick Wright said. “I realize that by sending out the survey on Twitter and Facebook, I am probably going to reach a pretty good amount of people with smartphones and computers, but I am also trying to reach those who might not have a smartphone or computer which is why I asked individuals about their households in the survey.”

Wright tweeted a link on May 29 asking residents in Chilton County if “you or anyone in your house rely solely on weather sirens for your safety during inclement weather?”

Residents were asked to answer either “yes,” “no,” or “I can’t hear the sirens from my home.”

Wright said on Monday the response so far was mixed, but the majority of individuals completing the survey checked the “I can’t hear the sirens from my home” option.

“Right now, we aren’t pushing to get rid of the tornado sirens in the county; if they work we aren’t trying to take them away,” Wright said. “We do want to figure out what best suits the majority of people, and we want to find out what works and what doesn’t work.”

Wright said he hopes individuals throughout the county will continue sharing the survey on social media with the goal of reaching more than 500 people by June 5.

“So far, we have had the survey up since May 29, and we have gotten 417 responses,” Wright said. “Even if you aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, you might know someone who is and you can get them to help you vote or if you live in a household with someone who uses Facebook or Twitter. Or, you can complete the survey for the household.”

Wright said part of the problem with weather sirens in the county is many residents who live in rural areas are unable to hear the sounds of the sirens when severe weather approaches the area.

“The weather sirens in the cities are great,” Wright said. “The problem is when you get into areas in the county where a siren is placed and you can’t hear it. A lot of the systems are old and expensive to maintain so if some people can’t hear them, then you have to find a solution that helps those who can’t hear them where they live.”

Although Wright didn’t know an exact figure, he said many counties in Alabama no longer rely on outdoor tornado sirens.

“There are programs out there where you can get alerts sent to your e-mail, Facebook Twitter or some will even call your house with a warning,” Wright said. “I know a lot of individuals rely heavily on weather radios and television, so it really comes down to trying to find something that works for everyone. There is no real solution to everything, but we are trying to find out what is working. There are also cell phone apps, and the state has a free app called Alabama SAF-T-Net which notifies you of severe weather.”

According to the website for SAF-T-Net alerts, the system is offered at no cost to residents living in Alabama and “notifies those in the path of dangerous weather through mobile apps, text messaging, email or voice calls.”

The site allows individuals to choose up to four customizable locations including home, work or schools and includes tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings.

Currently, Wright said there are 24 sirens in the county (not including municipalities) and hopes the survey will be a starting point to see if outdoor tornado sirens in Chilton County are effective.

“This is really for base knowledge for us to know if what we are doing is working or not working,” Wright said. “We may have to do other surveys to figure out what programs are best, but we are trying to do some initial research and see what we can come up with.”

To access the survey, visit Chilton EMA’s Facebook page or ChiltonEMA on Twitter.

To download a free severe weather app for iPhone or Android smartphones, visit