Smartphone, tablet can be key in severe weather situations

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NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – It’s severe weather preparedness week. Do you know if the tornado sirens in your community work?

Thursday a statewide tornado drill provided communities an opportunity to review their tornado response. But you should be aware emergency management officials say depending on those sirens alone is a bad idea.

“The sirens are one piece of the pie, but we want to make sure there are options out there,” said Tom Sivak, Executive Director, Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency.

Sivak said one of those other options should be a weather radio. But now he believes it’s more important than ever to have your smart phone or tablet updated with weather apps. It’s arguably more reliable than a storm siren that could be decades old and is only designed to alert you if you are outdoors.

“One of our sirens in the county that still works goes all the way back to the 1950s,” said Sivak,” The siren is that piece of the pie, the last thing to say it’s time for you to take action.”

In Thursday’s test, Hamilton County officials sounded 72 sirens. Sivak said most of them worked. He estimates 90 to 95 percent. They will get a full report next week.

FOX 59 checked with Hendricks County as well. The Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director there said four of the county’s 54 sirens didn’t send a signal back to the main computer. The four could be working, but they’re calling in the vendor just to check.

The Marion County EMA director said they are checking with vendors, too. Of the county’s 171 sirens tested, 52 did not send a signal back to home base. The devices could’ve blared out an alert tone, but there’s no way to be sure.

“When we take a tested and true technology, it’s something we have to keep in the back of our head,” said Sivak.

That’s why he believes it’s crucial you have a backup plan in the palm of your hand. He recommends the Red Cross tornado app, which tracks storms and walks you through what to do in the moments after one hits.

The FOX 59 app is a must-have, too. Real-time radar can keep you save.

“A lot of times, staying informed is checking the radar before you go out and saying is there a severe weather threat today,” he said.

It’s more proof our gadgets can keep us safe, as another line of defense.

When the skies get nasty, you can always stay up to date with us at FOX 59. We activate our live weather blog, showing you severe weather conditions as they are happening.

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