“Seek shelter and seek information.”
Following Wednesday’s use of the Outdoor Warning Siren System in Branson, city and emergency management officials are working to better educate area residents on the purpose of the siren.
Approximately two years ago, representatives with the National Weather Service in Springfield, Branson Emergency Management, Springfield/Greene County Emergency Management, Joplin/Jasper County Emergency Management and meteorologists from KSPR 33 in Springfield came together to create and establish the Ozarks Integrated Outdoor Warning Siren Policy. The idea for the policy came about due to the fact meteorologists were having trouble figuring out what jurisdictions were taking actions with their outdoor warning sirens, according to Branson Emergency Management Director and Fire Chief Ted Martin.
“So in the terms of severe weather, we came up with the Integrated Outdoor Warning Siren Policy that established the dates that we would test our sirens, which is the second Wednesday of each month, weather permitting, and that we would activate sirens in the event of severe weather for Doppler-indicated location, spotted funnel clouds or tornado or life threatening winds of 70 miles per hour,” said Martin. “So that’s the principal of the guidelines established.”
Martin added the policy also included an educational section that advised meteorologists to encourage people to seek shelter and seek information when the outdoor warning sirens are activated.
To seek the best information, Martin recommended people should tune into their local television or radio news stations for live coverage information. Information provided via NOAA weather radios and smartphone apps are also good resources to have on hand when bad weather is in the forecast.
On May 29, Branson, Hollister and other surrounding Taney County cities experienced up to baseball-size hail, winds that reached up to 75 miles per hour and heavy rainfall.
“We were starting to activate the sirens and actually held off as the storm weakened near the Highway 13 corridor in Stone County to a point that we didn’t see the rotation and everything else coming with it,” said Martin.
“However, it strengthened back up again and the weather service directly told us that we’ll see the potential for up to two-inch hail crossing Table Rock Lake.”
Martin said, while they were watching the incoming storm on radar, they were also watching the web camera stationed at the Presley Theatre on 76 Country Boulevard when they noticed a large number of people still outside.
“We re-opted, because of our community, to activate those sirens. Again the key phrase is they are ‘Outdoor Warning Sirens,’ they are not ‘tornado sirens.’ They are not ‘air-raid sirens’ from back in the Cold War. They are ‘Outdoor Warning Sirens,’” Martin said. “That gave them time, and it gave notice to those citizens to seek shelter and seek information. So that’s why those sirens were activated.”
Since the siren activation on Wednesday, the question has been asked, why isn’t there different siren tones for the different storm warnings? Martin explained that, due to the number of visitors and tourists in the area, it would be impossible to educate the public on what each of the sirens mean.
“How do we educate the public on what all these tones do when we’re a very dynamic community,” he said. “So that’s why we stuck with that phrase, when the Outdoor Warning Siren sounds, ‘seek shelter and seek information.’”
Martin said, among the concerns noted on social media regarding the activation of the siren, the response from people has mostly been positive and thankful.
Since its creation, the Ozarks Integrated Weather Policy has become a foundation for other jurisdictions across the state of Missouri who are adopting their own weather warning policy systems. For additional information on the Ozarks Integrated Weather Policy or the Outdoor Warning Sirens visit bransonmo.gov.