Tornando Sirens Sound Alarms, Bring Confusion
COLUMBIA - The Columbia/Boone County Office of Emergency Management is taking steps to clear up what emergency sirens actually mean in the wake of the tornado in St. Louis.
With increasing warm weather and strong thunderstorms, the public safety commission is acting to continue absolute safety. Sirens rang out on Friday as a strong storm moved through the area, but some residents still don't know exactly what they mean.
According to the OEM, sirens will only sound when:
-A tornado warning has been issued anywhere in Boone County by the National Weather Service.
-A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued in which extrensive damage is highly probable.
-Reliable information has been received advising extensive storm damage is occurring and/or a funnel cloud has been sighted which threatens the county.
-Sustained damaging winds (70 MPH or higher) are occurring in the county.
Sirens will continue for three minutes when activated. An "all clear" message will not be issued by siren; rather, residents of Boone County are encouraged to listen to emergency broadcasts by radio or television.
Derek Roe, an associate public defender in downtown Columbia, was working in his office when the sirens went off. Roe said that he kept working because he was unclear what the siren meant, even though the siren is less than a block from his office. "At first I didn't know, didn't recognize the difference between the tornado siren, possibly some sort of siren in an emergency vehicle, or it was just their testing period."
There are 80 sirens in the Boone County area, which can be heard for up to a half mile.