The Purdue University Fort Wayne Community Research Institute and the Allen County Emergency Management Advisory Council are seeking public input via an online survey about how Allen County residents get information during severe weather events and their use of outdoor warning sirens. The survey is available at www.pfw.edu/centers/cri/ and www.allencounty.us/homeland/.
Historically, outdoor emergency warning sirens played a central role in outdoor emergency warning during severe weather events, particularly when tornados are present in Allen County. Today, with numerous other technologies available for personal use, outdoor emergency warning sirens may not play such a central role anymore. This survey is designed to ask just those questions: how important are the outdoor warning sirens to Allen County residents and what role do they continue to play during severe weather events?
The current network of outdoor emergency warning sirens in Allen County is old and in need of upgrades and replacements if it is to continue being a central part of the local severe weather alerting process. Some of these updates relate to mandated requirements by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), while others relate to the efficiency and reliability of the system itself. Significant investment of taxpayers’ dollars will be required if this system continues to be an important part of the overall severe weather warning system.
“It seems reasonable to engage our community up-front and let you tell us how important they are to you before we recommend spending of your money on this program” said Bernie Beier, Director of Homeland Security for Allen County.
Originally built to serve as a Civil Defense warning system, it later became a tool to alert volunteer firefighters of a call for fire service in their township. During the late 1970s it became an outdoor warning tool to alert residents of severe weather events such as a tornado. Today, with other technologies available to residents such as smartphones, mobile devices, weather radios, radio and television stations, people have numerous sources of information for severe weather available, often with better and more accurate information than just the sound of an outdoor warning siren can provide.
“This survey will take most people less than five minutes to complete, but the responses will be incredibly important to guide how city and county officials move forward with this system,” said Rachel Blakeman, CRI Director. “There is inconsistent siren coverage in Allen County so we are asking for respondents’ ZIP codes to see if there are any trends in how people use sirens depending on location.”
The survey has a map of where the sirens are located and about 10 questions that ask how Allen County residents get information about where they can hear the sirens, how they get information about severe weather, the value of cellphone alerts and the perceived need for siren upgrades. The survey is available through Sept. 15, at purdue.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8ozGdFs84eBPW3H