We continuously look for cost-efficient ways to better serve you, and sometimes we don’t get it right. This is one of those times.
Earlier this year, we finally upgraded our storm warning software. The upgrade allowed for three enhancements to our ability to warn citizens of impending dangerous weather. The first enhancement was automation. Our previous system was exclusively human-initiated/manual. When a tornado warning was issued, an available 911 dispatcher had to manually turn on the warning system. Our 911 dispatchers are wonderful public safety folks that do not get enough credit, and what often goes overlooked is how busy they are – especially in a time such as an intense storm. Moving away from a manual system to an automatic system (that is now silently tested weekly instead of monthly) nearly eliminates any potential human error that could endanger lives.
The second enhancement was accuracy. Formerly, the siren would be activated if there was a tornado warning anywhere in Robertson County. This would often lead to “false alarms” if the storm’s path did not include Springfield or was already past Springfield. Now, the siren is activated to directly reflect the smaller geographical area of the actual warning issued by the National Weather Service. It does not set off tones in areas that are unaffected by the storm which eliminates siren fatigue. Now, when the siren sounds, your area is affected so there is certainty in relying on the system as a true warning.
The third enhancement was the ability to utilize the system for severe thunderstorm warnings in addition to tornado warnings. We have spoken with many of you and received valuable feedback on this particular aspect of the system. Everything we do at the City of Springfield should be designed to serve our citizens and customers. While the intended effect of the severe thunderstorm warning system was to serve you better, it has had the opposite outcome. The severe thunderstorm warning has resulted in confusion and uncertainty rather than a benefit of enhanced warning to you.
Therefore, we have disabled the severe thunderstorm warning capability of the siren system which will revert the system back to a tornado warning system only. We apologize for any inconvenience and the confusion that it caused. Thank you for your feedback and we are grateful for the opportunity to serve you.