Upgraded Signaling Systems Providing Faster, More Accurate Weather Alerts

If you live in an area at risk of severe weather events, you’ve probably
 heard community-wide outdoor warning sirens. For decades, as public 
safety officials have learned of thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail and 
other severe storms coming toward their areas, they’ve sounded these 
alarms warning citizens to take shelter. Federal Signal

Chuck Ross

If you live in an area at risk of severe weather events, you’ve probably heard community-wide outdoor warning sirens. For decades, as public safety officials have learned of thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail and other severe storms coming toward their areas, they’ve sounded these alarms warning citizens to take shelter. While this might seem like a pretty basic operation, these systems have become increasingly sophisticated over the last decade or so, with faster notifications and more precise targeting.

In the past, emergency-system operators might have had to depend on radio broadcasts or other notification approaches to learn of an approaching storm or tornado. Today’s systems, however, often feature automated alerts going straight from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which manages the National Weather Service, to operators’ desktops or mobile devices. Some control systems can even be configured to have these alerts automatically trigger area sirens, without need for personnel to even be present. This functionality can give area residents critical extra minutes they might need to take safety in what could be a very dangerous situation.

In another improvement, the latest systems take advantage of improved NOAA storm tracking capabilities to narrow their alerts to the areas most directly in the track of oncoming weather. Previously, NOAA alerts were county-wide, which could lead to sirens going off where they weren’t needed. Now the agency’s warnings show up on system monitors in polygon shapes that surround the area immediately around a storm’s track, making for more meaningful warnings that are more likely to be followed.

And the most advanced signaling systems now are moving away from onsite software to cloud-based data and controls. This approach allows for easier integration with remote weather services, like NOAA and AccuWeather, so polygon-based alerts can be accessed anywhere. Such systems put siren control and other actions in the hands of emergency personnel, wherever they might be, and also offer a variety of automated siren-activation options that can be customized to a community’s needs.


Photo courtesy of Federal Signal

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