WATCH: Why Tornado Sirens Will Never Come Back to San Angelo
SAN ANGELO, TX -- Last week San Angelo was hit by one of the worst storms it has seen in years in the middle of the darkness in the wee-early morning. When storms roll in the dark, the most important thing to keep people safe is for them to be notified.
After Last Saturday's storm many people felt that the emergency sirens that had been decommissioned a few months ago would've helped them be more prepared. A petition was even made to try and get them back working.
Nineteen-year Fire Chief Brian Dunn and Chief of Operations Todd Sanford explained why the sirens aren't coming back. There are many reasons why the old sirens are a thing of the past, they said. Watch the video here:
The biggest problem with the sirens is the cost and constant maintenance of them. The sirens are outside through every storm and since they have been here since the 1950's they are extremely outdated. "Every month we would test them and every time multiple sirens were broken." said Chief Dunn "It became harder to find parts."
Another problem is that even if the sirens were going off many couldn't hear them anyway. "One of the biggest misconceptions is that the siren system will be a fix all for everything," said Chief Dunn. "The biggest problem is people cannot hear them when they are inside their house." He continued. He relayed a personal experience where the sirens were being tested on 20th and Chadbourne St. While the siren went off, Dunn went four blocks down on a sunny day and could not hear anything.
The fix to all of these problems was the new iPAWS system. The emergency alerts are similar to Amber alerts received on cell phones. When activated by the SAFD, alerts will be sent to every cell phone and landline within the area designated – whether a neighborhood or the entire county. Calls to land lines will continue until answered, offering detailed information about the threat and instructions.
"You can issue the alerts and what is happening goes across your screen." said Chief Dunn. "If it is a tornado warning it will tell you its a tornado, to take cover and how long the storm will last."
The alerts are based on what the National Weather Service reports. When the storm enters Tom Green County the fire department will issue out alerts, but not to everyone in the county. The alerts are only sent out to people in the "danger zone." The reason being if you live in north San Angelo you don't need to be worried about a tornado aiming for Wall. If that tornado continues to head your direction an alert will be sent to you.
Chief Sanford runs the iPaws system. Every time a storm is approaching Tom Green County Sanford is at his desk, making calls, and sending out alerts to where they need to go. "Every time we send out an alert the next day we are calling our vendors and the government to make sure everything worked. Said Chief Sanford. "If it didn't work. we find out why and we fix it."
According to the fire department, the night of the storm every alert that was sent out was received.
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