Blount County’s system of 25 weather-warning sirens has been upgraded. Formerly, all sirens sounded simultaneously whenever a storm warning was issued affecting any part of the county. Now, because of new software enabling only selected sirens to sound, only the area likely to be directly affected by an approaching storm can be alerted with sounding sirens. The system went live in July.
For example, in the past, if the siren in Brooksville was activated to warn citizens in that area of an imminent possible tornado, residents in Remlap, Hayden, Straight Mountain, and all 21 points in between got warned, too.
The new system will help counter the basically correct perception by citizens in the past that just because a siren sounds didn’t necessarily mean they should immediately go on active alert and closely monitor weather conditions around them. Now, if a siren sounds, a dangerous storm is approaching, the cone of its possible paths definitely includes the area where the siren is sounding, and people will know to respond to the threat.
Under the new system, the area to be warned is linked to the area actually designated by the National Weather Service as being in the path of a storm, and the proper sirens are sounded automatically. The procedure is that the sirens sound for three minutes with a one-minute break, then a continuing three-minutes on and one-minute-off cycle for the duration of the warning period. The system can also be activated manually within the county by the Emergency Management Agency or by 911.
To monitor that sirens are actually sounding when bidden, the system is tested audibly by sounding sirens the first Wednesday of each month at 12 noon. The system is also tested silently to determine if sirens are malfunctioning, and repair arrangements are made if needed.
Cost of the new system software was $10,000. It was covered by a grant of $10,000 from CAWACO Resource, Conservation, and Development Council, supported by the Blount County legislative delegation. While the grant depends on support from all members of the delegation, lead legislators on the project were District 11 Rep. Randall Shedd, District 34 Rep. David Standridge and District 17 Sen. Shay Shelnutt.