Emergency officials weigh benefits of tornado sirens

When you walk into the Summertrace subdivision in Hattiesburg, you will see the ruble and devastation an EF4 tornado left in its' destructive path on February 10. Luckily, there were no fatalities.

Some people say they were able to seek shelter because of media warnings, others say they heard the warnings of the tornado sirens.

"There are outdoor warning sirens," said Lamar County Emergency Management Director, James Smith.

"I think that was one of the reasons why there were no deaths," said Hattiesburg Mayor, Johnny DuPree.

"Sirens coupled with other warning systems, and notifications, I believe it saved lives," said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Executive Director, Robert Latham.

Before February 10, did you know if your county had sirens? Or, what it meant when you heard its' warning? Some Facebook users said they never heard the sirens that Sunday, or they couldn't hear them from where they live.

Smith says one cause for that may be where sirens are located.

"Our primary focus was school, out door athletic facilities, because that is our biggest day time population," said Smith.

Here in the Pine Belt there are about 70 sirens throughout 11 counties. However, some counties don't have them, and others have only one.

"There are six total. One on USM campus, and five in the city," said Forrest County Emergency Management Director, Terry Steed.

There may be a few in Forrest County, but Steed says there is a concern for residents outside the city.

"Most of the county, well, almost all of the county is not covered. The sirens are just in the city," said Steed.

And weather sirens are for outdoor use only, Latham says there is a chance you won't hear them within your home, especially at night.

"If this would have happened at two o'clock in the morning, and people are like me, they go sound asleep, I would never hear a siren," said Latham.

Some Facebook users say they have ignored the sirens, even brushing off the warning the day of the tornado. A few saying it's because they hear it so often when there is no danger. Officials say that's probably because they test them routinely.

"We test them once a month," said Smith.

"I believe it is every Monday at four o'clock. The police department does it," said Steed.

"Test the sirens on a routine bases. Preferable monthly," said Marion County Emergency Management Communications Officer, Cathy Seal.

Despite the weather sirens benefits or exceptions, officials say do not dependent on sirens alone.

"Weather radio is what I recommend for every house hold to have. A battery backed up NOAA Weather Radio. If the power goes out it still activates. It will wake you up in the middle of the night," said Steed.

"There's just tons of apps out there now that you can put on your smart phone," said Latham.

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