Although its name may suggest otherwise, the “tornado” siren isn't just to warn residents of approaching twisters.
As Oakland County residents learned two weeks ago, emergency personnel may also activate these sirens to warn of severe storms producing winds in excess of 70 mph. When destructive storms swept through southeast Michigan on July 3, to warn residents of the severe weather, but not all residents were pleased to learn of the siren’s secondary use.
"This is a classic example of crying wolf,” said , on the Huntington Woods-Berkley Patch. “The sirens should be used only for tornado warnings (sightings of tornadoes in the area). People will ignore them otherwise or waste ten minutes looking at the NOAA website like I did, which mentioned nothing but thunderstorms.”
While Macomb Township did not activate its sirens for the July 3 storm, Fire Chief Robert Phillips said it very well could in the case of similar weather.
“There are rules set up that anytime we have notice of winds in excess of 70 mph, or if we have notice of a tornado that’s been reported in the area, we can set (the sirens) off,” Phillips said.
Based on information from the National Weather Service or Macomb County Emergency Management, either the fire department or Macomb County Sheriff’s Office can activate Macomb Township’s 14 sirens.
Residents will hear the same tone to warn of both weather conditions. Phillips reminds that the sirens also sound on the first Saturday of each month in the spring, summer and fall. This Saturday activation is a test.
More information about Macomb County's emergency management can be found in the Community Preparedness Guide, available for download on the county website.