McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

May 16, 2014

Sirens to sound during testing Wednesday

Staff report

— Wednesday, McAlester and Pittsburg County maintained storm sirens will be tested between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., according to McAlester/Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management officials.

OEM Deputy Director Lois Lupardus said sirens maintained and activated by OEM from the Emergency Operations Center are in the towns and communities of Alderson, Arpelar, Arrowhead Estates, Bugtussle, Haywood, Indianola, Savanna, Shady Grove, and McAlester.

Emergency management personnel monitors weather conditions and gives Pittsburg County residents as much advanced severe weather warning as possible, according to OEM Director Kevin Enloe.

OEM officials say sirens are only meant to be heard from outside of a home and are among many tools to keep people safe during severe weather.

Residents should also keep a NOAA weather radio with well-charged batteries nearby to monitor for severe weather watches and — most importantly — warnings.

OEM Director Kevin Enloe said the EOC’s protocol for severe weather and tornadoes is as follows:

• Once it’s determined severe weather is likely in Pittsburg County, a pre-activation message will be sent to those in the OEM’s Storm Spotter Network — and EOC sends messages to entities that independently operate storm sirens — even though they are not directly controlled by OEM Pittsburg County EOC.

• If severe weather is in the forecast, or expected, there will be a storm spotter briefing approximately an hour before inclement weather is expected to reach Pittsburg County.

• EOM will direct storm spotters to safe locations to spot inclement weather conditions and possible events such as high wind speeds, hail, funnel clouds, tornadoes, etc.

• The EOC notifies McAlester Regional Health Center of severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings that will effect the hospital.

• Sirens will be activated if conditions meet the following criteria:

    ° If wind speeds reach more than 70 miles per hour

    ° If storm spotters confirm seeing a tornado, rotation, or lower of the clouds

    ° If hail measuring more than one inch in diameter

    ° If there is debris spotted or reported by officials, such as trees that have been uprooted, large signs blown over, or roofs blowing off buildings, etc.

• EOC updates storm spotters, during severe weather, with the latest information to keep them at the safest vantage points for spotting during severe weather.

• Although EOC does not control a number of sirens in Pittsburg County, they make every effort to provide communities with independently activated sirens with as much is information as possible regarding their decision on whether or not to activate sirens.

• After a severe weather event has subsided, a briefing at EOC will take place between EOM personnel, officials and storm spotters.

Although authorities and emergency workers report storm damage they see, they are unable to see it all and welcome your help, Lupardus said. Therefore if damage happens to a home or other property, it should be reported to the OEM at any time at 918-423-5655.

She said sirens that OEM will not test that are owned and independently activated by their communities are the No. 9 Area, Adamson, Canadian, Canadian Shores, Crowder, Haileyville, Hartshorne, Kiowa, Krebs, Indianola, Sams Point and Quinton.