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Online survey may help determine if tornado sirens ‘stay or go’ in Allen County

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – Outdoor warning sirens could be on the endangered list, depending upon the findings from an online survey being promoted by local emergency management officials.

The sirens have been a common line of defense against the threat of tornadoes in the county for more than 40 years.

But how effective are they?

And is the network of sirens worth investing in for the future?

The sound of one of Allen County’s 55 tornado sirens going off can get annoying in a hurry.

They’re designed to get your attention, in the event a tornado is bearing down on your home or business.

Many people these days are tipped off to dangerous storms via smartphones, mobile devices or local radio and TV.

Teen-ager Bryce Kreider lives not far from a tornado siren in north Fort Wayne.

“Not everyone has a cell phone, not everyone has ways of communicating with people, so the sirens are one of our ways of communicating with people, to let them know that there are tornadoes nearby and it helps them evacuate,” Kreider said.

The Purdue Fort Wayne Community Research Institute and Allen County emergency management officials are seeking broader public input about the sirens, pushing an online survey to gather information.

The survey is seen as valuable, because improving the sirens is costly.

“At $26,000, $27,000 a piece, that math goes up really fast if you add to the system, it’s appropriate that we pause and have a discussion with the public about just what these sirens do, more importantly, what they don’t do,” said Allen County Homeland Security Director Bernie Beier.

Beier says they are only set off in the event of a tornado, not severe thunderstorms, and he says they provide notice after other alert systems have already activated.

Officials have sought input about the devices in other ways before.

“Some people think they’re great, they definitely want to see the sirens continue, others say their day has passed. We don’t know that yet, so we got a good small sample, now we want to hear from literally thousands of people,” said Rachel Blakeman, with the Purdue Fort Wayne Community Research Institute.

The online survey is available through September 15th.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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