JOHNSON COUNTY — Johnson County emergency personnel are beginning to implement a new policy change when it comes to their storm siren system.
The new policy went into effect on July 1. Johnson County says the purpose of the new policy is to lessen the confusion around the siren sounds. Johnson County Public Safety Communication Center will now only activate the sirens only when the National Weather Service issues a Tornado Warning.
“Everybody was getting confused on [the sirens],” said Stephanie Sichting, Director of Johnson County Emergency Management, who proposed the policy change just last week, “Especially the ones on county line that have the same policy we just went to.”
Johnson County sits just south of Marion County in which currently has the same policy that Johnson County just adapted to.
“I brought it up in the Fire Chief’s meeting. That policy has been there since I started back in ’99,” said Sichiting. Sichiting says that she is the one that prompted the proposal of the policy change because she was receiving many complaints from Johnson County residents.
“I brought it up that I wanted the sirens to be activated only if a tornado warning was issued by the National Weather Service or a trained weather spotter or safety personnel witnessed a funnel cloud or a tornado, then they could call it in and we would set off the tornado sirens,” said Sichting.
The Johnson Co. siren system is not specific to just one area, they go off throughout the whole county. “Why we decided that is… you never know where it’s gonna travel,” said Sichting.
Routine testing of the siren system will still continue to run at 11:00 a.m. on Fridays, however, now, the weekly siren test will not take place if there are storms predicted for the area, actually in the area, or during freezing conditions. If this is the case, the sirens will then be tested the following Friday.
So far, although the policy change is rather fresh, Johnson County is already receiving positive feedback. “They’re saying it’s about time,” laughed Sichting.
Johnson County emergency personnel wants to make clear that the outdoor warning sirens are not intended to warn people indoors. People indoors should seek other forms of communication to be alert of severe weather in their area such as a weather radio and/or cellphone alerts sent to their phone.