SIRENS: City explains purpose

COLUMBIA CITY — Columbia City’s mayor addressed the use of sirens at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Works and Safety. He said the issue had received numerous inquires from local residents.“The whole reason I put it on the agenda was because there were a lot of questions from the public as to why the tornado sirens were not put off when the big wind storm came through during Old Settlers Days,” said Mayor Ryan Daniel. Director of Communications Terry Wherry said the siren system, which was put in about 20 years ago, was intended to be used for tornado warnings in Whitley County, not tornado watches, and there are four different ways the sirens can be activated.According to the city’s policy and procedures for siren activation, tornado sirens are authorized to be activated by an Indiana Data and Communications System message from the National Weather Service advising of a tornado warning in the area, the Whitley County weather spotters, the fire department spotters and police officers.“If we activate for 60 mph winds, do we activate for 50 mph winds? Do we activate for hail? There are so many variables there that people would probably get to a point where they disregarded them. That’s why when you hear the sirens in Columbia City, unless we are testing them on Monday, that means there is a tornado in Whitley County, and you need to take cover,” said Wherry.Daniel said it should be noted that tornado sirens are used as a way to contact people, but it is not the only way, in the event that there is supposed to be bad weather, Daniel cautions citizens to keep in touch with the situation through the use of phones, television and the radio.“I guess the total reliance shouldn’t be on the tornado sirens, but when there is a tornado warning, you can be assured that our sirens will go off,” said Daniel.