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Offficials may tweak weather siren process

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Workers will training in how to spot storm

By Lisa King

After three consecutive weekends of hearing the tornado sirens going off because funnel clouds being were spotted, officials say the criteria for sounding the sirens may need a little tweaking.

Shelby County Emergency Management Agency Director Charlie Frazee said that he realizes that the more residents hear the sirens, the less likely they will be to take it seriously.

Frazee said one thing he is doing about the situation is contacting other counties to see what they are doing.

“I have been going around to different places and checking with them and they are pretty much doing the same thing we are, that is, depending on the advice of their emergency personnel, such as fire fighters and police,” he said.

In response to that, a Severe Weather Spotters Training Class will be held July 15 at the Stratton Center to educate emergency personnel on how to spot severe weather.

“We will hold two classes that day, one at 2 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. so that all shifts of emergency workers can attend,” he said, adding the event is also open to the public.

“It will be taught by Joe Sullivan, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, and we greatly encourage the public to come.”

Frazee said from information he has gathered from other areas, local standards of sounding the sirens are somewhat conservative.

“In Clermont County, Ohio, they sound them for thunderstorms, and in Jefferson County, they sound them for straight-line winds in excess of 60 miles per hour,” he said.

Last Saturday morning, Shelby County Dispatch sounded the sirens in response to a report from Waddy firefighters who had called in saying they had spotted a funnel cloud on Hempridge Road there.

The funnel cloud did not touch down in Waddy, but Frazee points out that it could have.

“At the Spotter’s Training, we will discuss the information I am gathering now, and maybe before that as well,” Frazee said.

But for now, he said that although he cannot speak for 911 Dispatch, he agrees that they must continue to sound the sirens if there’s even a chance that danger might be present.

“My goodness, if dispatch didn’t sound the alert and something did happen and someone got hurt, they [the county] could get sued for everything they have,” he said, “not to even mention the danger to the community.”

Frazee urges residents never to ignore the sirens and also to purchase a National Weather Service Alert Radio, pointing out that  Shelby County’s 23 weather-alert sirens are not the only means the public has of being alerted and that they should not rely on them totally, because  they cover less than half the county.