Are tornado sirens needed in Hamilton County? - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Are tornado sirens needed in Hamilton County?

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Generic photo by MGN Online. Generic photo by MGN Online.

"Field test of the WPS-2750..." the siren echoed.

It's a new tool designed to warn Dade County residents when a tornado is nearby.

Alex Case, the Director of Dade County Emergency Services says, "we learn from every event, what happens; the 2011 event opened our eyes tremendously because we lost power to our water system for six days."

Five tornadoes have touched down in Dade County between 2010 and 2015. After the 2011 storm, FEMA granted Dade County more than a million dollars in assistance, helping to pay for sirens.

The first was installed last year in downtown Trenton. Two more, are in the works. Residents report hearing tests three and a half miles away.

Hamilton County is taking a different approach, using an Integrated Public Alert Warning System, or IPAWS.

"You do not have to sign up for IPAWS, it's a free service," Tony Reavley, the Director of Hamilton County Emergency Services says. "But you have to make sure on your cell phone, whether it be an Apple or an Android, that you turn on the alert switch."

IPAWS rolled out last August. You can receive the service by turning emergency alerts "on" under settings on your smartphone.

EMA Director Tony Reavley says Hamilton County has considered adding sirens, but he says they could cause confusion for the 100,000 people living within ten miles of Sequoya Nuclear Plant.

"They're accustomed to hearing that test on, at noon, the first Wednesday of every month," Reavley adds. "Basically, when they hear that siren, it means, tune into your local TV and radio stations for further instructions."

TVA tests its sirens once a month. Most tornado sirens have a similar tone. Malinda Hunter says the Sequoya Plant has never had to use them in 30 years of operation.

"There are a hundred sirens just for the Sequoya plant; those are strictly for the use of a nuclear event," Hunter says. "Thankfully, we've never had to use those."

But if they did, Reavley says it's important people know the difference.

"Normally if something happened at a nuclear facility, we have that time," Reavley states. "We have that time to turn into your local TV and radio because normally they detect, and they're safe. But the issue is...when we have a weather event...we may not have that time."

In the past 50 years, there have been 27 reports of tornado damage in Hamilton County. 2011 took a good chunk of those numbers.

When tornados touched down in 2011 and 2012, Hamilton County relied on weather radios and local meteorologists.

Reavley says IPAWS will increase safety should another storm hit.

We wanted to know how people will be notified if cell phones go down, or they don't have a smartphone.

"A weather alert radio, I know I heard a lot of feedback of 'I don't want to hear all that stuff,'" Reavley says. "Well, technology has improved to this day, where you can program those radios, based upon zip code."

Have a weather-related story idea? Feel free to email Meteorologist Brittany Beggs.

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