Letters to the Editor

Siren policy

May 7, 2008


To the editor:

Am I to understand that Douglas County officials will not activate our tornado warning sirens unless a trained spotter or law enforcement official confirms radar indication of a tornado? Wouldn't we want to warn the people of Douglas County to take shelter BEFORE a tornado actually hits, not after?

We are also instructed to rely on the radio, television and Internet for storm warnings during severe weather. How are we supposed to know to do this at 1 in the morning when we are asleep? And how can we turn on our television or computer when the power is out? It's time to change our siren policy. When the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, we should immediately activate the tornado warning sirens. No one was injured or killed in the May 2 storm. Next time we might not be as lucky.

Lynate Pettengill,


Jessica Hull 10 years ago

I sat straight out of bed, not knowing what was going on, but also knowing that something wasn't right. I turned on the tv and saw the TW. We scrambled upstairs to get my 3 totally disoriented girls out of bed. Then all ran out in the rain to our neighbors who had the door open and ready for us.If the sirens had gone off, I'm sure we would have woken earlier and would have had time to get everyone together without panic. Peoples lives should be the priority. Blow the sirens.

Write2Know 10 years ago

Everyone should buy an emergency weather alert radio. Put the safety of you and your family back in your own hands. Don't rely on some idiot to activate the sirens.

swhite 10 years ago

I completely agree they should of sounded the sirens. My husband and I sleep downstairs and our 3 kids are upstairs. I was upset to see we were under a warning and didn't know to take cover. I've lived in Lawrence all my life and remember all the bad storms. I would rather take cover and not have a tornado then to wake up and my house be gone. Please sound the sirens. Better safe than sorry.

Ken Miller 10 years ago

After reading these LJW comments for several years, it's obvious there is always a call for heads to roll after a controversial decision is made.But you are blaming people (Newton and Smith) who WERE FOLLOWING ESTABLISHED GUIDELINES.Change the guidelines and both of those folks, and any other Emergency Services officials, will work under a new set of rules and execute accordingly.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years ago

The official word post-storm from NWS was that the tornado was an F2 that touched down WNW of Clinton Lake. I agree with most here that, if NWS issues a tornado warning, there is a good reason to sound the sirens at that point. I realize that the sirens are also used for other weather and non-weather related emergencies, but, if they are saying that we should rely on weather radio vs. sirens, I think they don't fully grasp what their mission is.

melott 10 years ago

I would like to call everyone's attention to something else.Here in Lawrence, we are a weak signal area for NOAA weather radio. Here is a map of coverage:http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/states/kansas.htmlAreas in green are considered weak, unreliable coverage.I have not been able to find any other places where 80,000people are allowed to live in an area with such a low signal strength. For example, in my house, in the bedroom end, if I put the radio close to a window I can get the KC weather radio alert station...but if the weather is bad, the signal fades out. We are going to have to put on some public pressure to get them to do anything about this.

BalkansHawk 10 years ago

"I would rather take cover and not have a tornado then to wake up and my house be gone."Or ............. to not wake up at all, ever!

calieerin 10 years ago

I agree as well. It's a policy that does have to be addressed and enforced. If it takes a trained storm spotter to have this happen, I will personally do whatever if takes to become that person. I have a strong feeling I could round up a few hundred others that would take the training as well. Law Enforcement might be capturing the rapist running around when a tornado hits.....who knows. We are Douglas County residents and will be alerted, there should be nothing else to talk about.

BrianR 10 years ago

This isn't The Inquisition. No ones head has to roll, the policy just needs to change.

Ray Miller 10 years ago

Hey Yeti, I didn't say they shouldn't sound the sirens. I said that people shouldn't rely on them.Big difference, there.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years ago

Thank you for writing this letter. You are absolutely right. Sound the tornado sirens as a matter of policy with an NWS tornado warning. No second guessing.

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years ago

"If the siren went off every time there was a Tornado Warning, we'd lose a hell of a lot of sleep and/or work productivity than we would need to." Actually, I have lived here quite a while and in the last 10 years or so, I can only remember Douglas county being in a Tornado Warning a few times, so your loss of sleep/productivity statement doesn't really apply.

melott 10 years ago

Please see my previous post regarding investing in a weather radio.

vhawk 10 years ago

Thank you Lynate, I agree completely. My puppy is the one that woke us up once it had been changed to a Tornado warning. I cannot imagine having to get kids ready, it took long enough to get our dog and us ready, and then to find someone on the lowest level of our apartment building who was awake and willing to let us in. I would much rather be safe than sorry.

jafs 10 years ago

I hope all of you have written an e-mail to Ms. Smith stating your feelings on the subject.I have, and it was remarkably similar to this letter.

nut_case 10 years ago

Write2Know (Anonymous) says:Everyone should buy an emergency weather alert radio. Put the safety of you and your family back in your own hands. Don't rely on some idiot to activate the sirens.**AY-MEN!!

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years ago

They took the choice involving the safety of my family out of my hands. I awoke to what everyone concurs was a severe storm with a possibility of tornadic activity hitting my house. This is unacceptable. The policy needs to be changed at night. Wake me up...let me decide if my family needs to move to shelter. Blow the damn siren.

Ray Miller 10 years ago

Those of you relying on the sirens to wake you during severe weather are in for a rude surprise: sirens are designed only to warn those OUTDOORS. This is especially true of the newer Federal Signal 2001 models, which use a single tone (as opposed to the old, yellow, Federal Thunderbolts, which used a dual-tone to create a deep penetrating sound). You're unlikely to hear sirens over your air-conditioning, nearby traffic, and perhaps even the wind.Everyone should invest in a weather radio.

Poon 10 years ago

Livin' here in Larryville on my lovely cul-de-sacSuddenly, I heard a boom, the sky was turning blackI grabbed the emergency supplies in case the sirens should soundWeather radio came on said a twister was touchin' downThump thump thumpAnother one touches downThump thump thumpAnother one touches downAnd another comes down and another comes downAnother one touches downHey, its gonna come for youThey said a twister was causin' heck out in the county somewhereBut the person sittin' next to the big red button didn't seem to careBecause he didn't see the twister himself he didn't sound the alarmDespite college students and senior citizens in the path of harmThump thump thumpAnother one touches downThump thump thumpAnother one touches downAnd another comes down and another comes downAnother one touches downHey, its gonna come for youThe next thing that I knew, my house had been blown downThat giant twister had come right through and bulldozed half the townAnd only thirty minutes after the monster cyclone passedSomebody finally hit the button and the sirens sounded at lastThump thump thumpAnother one touches downThump thump thumpAnother one touches downAnd another comes down and another comes downAnother one touches downHey, its gonna come for youThump thump thump...

SpiritTat 10 years ago

Right on, Lynate ~ well stated and precisely on target!!

paavopetie 10 years ago

I disagree. The tornado siren should only be sounded once an actual tornado has been spotted. Also, people - use your common sense. There was probably a Tornado Watch long before there was a Tornado Warning. And I'm sure the weather woke you up as well.If the siren went off every time there was a Tornado Warning, we'd lose a hell of a lot of sleep and/or work productivity than we would need to.

Jim Phillips 10 years ago

I agree. Time can be critical in a weather emergency, especially at night. Getting kids out of their beds and dressed approriately can take a few minutes. What about those families who must leave their homes to get to adequate shelter? This current policy is irresponsible and reprehensible.

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years ago

rjmwx81- By that logic, if I am golfing on a windy day and I unleash a drive that slices right at some other golfers. I should probably not yell "Fore!" because they probably wont hear me any way. Nice.

BrianR 10 years ago

"Jesus H Christ on a Popsicle stick..."That reminds me, Irvine Robbins, of Baskin-Robbins fame, died on Monday night. It's a very sad day for ice cream.

Poon 10 years ago

RJ - interesting post at 1:44. It seems to me that sirens have gotten quiter. I almost never had trouble hearing old sirens in a building - assuming I was not far away or deep inside in an interior room.

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years ago

Or maybe I am driving down the road and someone slowly starts to change lanes and does not see me because I am in their blind spot. I probably should not waste the effort of hitting the horn because they are listening to their radio and might not hear me. But they might hear me and then they might not run into my car....ridiculous.

Gina Bailey-Carbaugh 10 years ago

Isense, et al:I have lived in Lawrence for over forty years. I speak of a time when the sirens were sounded no matter where in the county the possible tornado was located. I recall, and I am still young enough to have all my faculties, that there was an uproar then by people tired of running for the nearest basement when the potential tornado was more then thirty miles away. So, yeah, Yeti, it could get people desensitized. My weather radio works fine, but I also have a cell phone alert. Anyone who relies solely on a siren to alert them is foolish.I find it ironic with all the bally-hoo in here, the I am accused of over-exaggerating. Please.

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years ago

rj- You're absolutely right. My apologies on lumping you in.

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years ago

Or maybe...just maybe...there were people outside that night at 1:30 am. Surely there was at least one person outdoors somewhere in the city that night. Did they not merit warning. Can the operator just assume that no one is outside at any given time? Your logic is very flawed, sir.

Jillster 10 years ago

I think anyone who depends on the sirens to wake them up at night isn't thinking clearly. I can barely hear the sirens when I'm inside when it's storming, so I know they'd never wake me up. That's why we have a weather radio with an alert feature, or we just stay up when the weather is nasty.I still believe that sirens should be sounded when there is a warning issued, but please, people...don't depend on the sirens as your only means of waking up at night when a tornado hits!

Ray Miller 10 years ago

Poon:They're not quieter, exactly. The newer sirens are actually 2 to 3 decibels louder. The problem is that the newer sirens produce a higher pitch which is somewhat less distinguishable from the background noise of cars, air conditioners, etc. (And it's actually a very similar pitch to the sound of the city's fire trucks, which makes since because those sirens are made by the same company.)More and more counties are installing these newer sirens, and they really have no choice in the matter for two reasons:1. Federal Signal doesn't make replacement parts for the old Thunderbolt models, so they've become too expensive to maintain.2. The old models could only be run off a direct power source. Lose electricity, lose the siren. The newer models have a battery backup.

David Benson 10 years ago

I can only imagine the complaints when the sirens start going off everytime there is a tornado warning in Lawrence, or as some would wish, a strong wind. As a chronic insomniac, I'll be among those complaining. Whey can't people let experts make decisions that should be made by experts?

Gina Bailey-Carbaugh 10 years ago

Oh, for crying out loud!There is nothing wrong with the current policy or with Mr.Newton's decision. Before this policy, the sirens went off ALL THE TIME. After awhile, people stop paying attention to them. Anyone who relies solely on the sirens to alert them is foolish. A weather radio is inexpensive and easy to set up. I have ha no problem with getting a warning. Also, cell phone alerts are FREE. And the cell phone works if the power goes off. Bonus.

Ken Miller 10 years ago

From May 3rd LJ-W:"The current county policy was developed a number of years ago by a countywide advisory board. It states that sirens are sounded only if radar indication of a tornado is confirmed by trained spotters or law enforcement officers unless the situation warrants a more immediate decision. The sirens also are activated only because of a tornado threat, not strong winds."Change the policy - don't belittle those who execute the existing policy correctly.

dirkleisure 10 years ago

"Well now you know that and I know that, but someones bucking for a promotion, probably that pederast Hanrahan. All I know is that if I don't go back with something you and your son-in-law are going to be the scapegoats of the week.""Unbelievable.""Look at this, they even want to know what he's doing in Utah.""Jesus H Christ on a Popsicle stick. First of all Alan Stanwyk doesn't own a single share of stock in Boyd Aviation. The ranch in Utah was entirely paid for by my daughter who converted some of her personal holdings, not corporate holdings, personal holdings. So, if any of you DC boys wanna make something out of that, bring it on. Otherwise you tell you Commission to get the hell out of my face.""God, I admire you. Look at this, seems to have stopped bleeding. Good day.""My pleasure. Oh by the way, what kind of name is Poon anyway?""Comanche Indian"

melott 10 years ago

Today I went to the Douglas County Emergency Managment meeting to speak about the weather radio issue. It is interesting that the actual committee did not have a quorum today.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 10 years ago

I have a weather alert radio. I am still pissed at the stupidity of the idiots running that emergency management office. What an incredibly idiotic policy. When the NWS puts out a tornado warning for Douglas County, blow the damn sirens. Simple as that. Otherwise fire the lot of them and hire someone with some common sense and start over. Yes I know the sirens are for outside! When they are blown in the night the dog gets all riled up, starts barking, and wakes me up if the weather radio didn't. Second line of defense, are you smart enough to get it? Thank you, Lynn

TheYetiSpeaks 10 years ago

Gina says: "Before this policy, the sirens went off all the time. After awhile, people stop paying attention to them." WHEN?!? You talk like the sirens were going off every other day. All the time? Not really. Stop paying attention? WHO?!? Not me, I hear a siren, I move my ass. You know why? Because I don't want to get bludgeoned by a tornado! Also, if you bothered to read the other comments, you would have noticed that there is some question to the absolute effectiveness of your precious weather radios in this area.

Gina Bailey-Carbaugh 10 years ago

Thank you, drb. Finally, someone with some common sense.

Gina Bailey-Carbaugh 10 years ago

KSA, are you unemployed? You sure have a lot of time on your hands .

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