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Don’t Rely On Sirens During Severe Weather; They Are A Last Resort

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(credit: CBS) Lauren Casey
Lauren Casey joined the WCCO-TV weather team in August 2011, a...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Monday was the first day of Severe Weather Awareness Week and only hours earlier shelf clouds and wall clouds hung over Minnesota, dropping heavy rain and hail.

As the storm clouds swept through the state Sunday, some heard sirens sounding; but meteorologists and local emergency managers want sirens to be peoples’ last warning that dangerous weather is coming – not the first.

Bill Hughes, of the Metropolitan Emergency Managers Association, says sirens aren’t even an effective way to tell people to take shelter.

“Sirens are pretty much a last resort signaling method,” he said.

Hughes says the problem with relying on sirens is that you’re not given any specific information. And the alert provided by a siren is not immediate.

“They’re probably not as reliable as we would like them to be, because they do take time to get sounded, and they are prone to such things as power failures,” Hughes said.

There are 245 sirens across Hennepin County, none of which are meant to be heard indoors.

Eric Waage, the director of Hennepin County Emergency Management, said the sirens are called outdoor warning sirens for a reason.

“They are designed to reach you when you are away from your normal sources of communication,” he said.

When activated, a siren will sound for five minutes. But it’s important to remember that just because the siren is off doesn’t mean the threat is over.

“The fact that the siren is off, doesn’t mean that things are done,” Waage said. “It means that you should have been alert…to find out more information.”

Emergency managers want people to rely on themselves.

Hughes said it’s up to individuals to get information on severe weather. Resources you can use to stay weather aware include: WCCO.com, the National Weather Service, TV, radio, social media, and a NOAA weather radio.

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