Sirens still vitally effective despite tech advances - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Sirens still vitally effective despite tech advances

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Certain sirens in DeKalb County can even transmit specific warnings via voice modulators. Certain sirens in DeKalb County can even transmit specific warnings via voice modulators.
DEKALB COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

The Birmingham suburb of Pelham is phasing out its tornado sirens. They said they will no longer replace the sirens if they break or get damaged, citing the explosion in the use of smartphones and weather apps from news stations that the siren model is outdated.

However, emergency management officials in DeKalb County do not feel the same way. In fact, the county has installed one new siren this year, with two more to follow in the months to come.

For the last few decades, EMA officials have been able to sound the sirens at the touch of a button when bad weather approaches. DeKalb County EMA Director Anthony Clifton said they are still a reliable means of informing the public. In fact, decades-old sirens have been replaced by more sophisticated models that can transmit specific warnings via a voice modulator.

Clifton said being in a populated suburb is different than a rural area, where there are a lot of family-friendly events. "They are intended for people who are outside. That's the reason why we locate them where we do. All of ours are located near schools or parks," Clifton said.

"Let's say you are out all day at the soccer field or at the softball tournament and you're not around a radio. An outdoor warning siren is intended to be just that," he continued.

Technology, said Clifton, may eventually put an end to the need for sirens once and for all. He said smartphones will allow them to have a greater access beyond that of just an app. "We're working on the newest thing out there; it is a system that allows us (the EMA) to work in cooperation with cell phone carriers and put out information over their towers. We should be able to reach a lot more people," he said.

Even when that day comes, Clifton said he believes warning sirens will still be useful for other industries, such as nuclear plants.

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