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Imminent threats trigger siren use, officials say

Imminent threats trigger siren use, officials say

May 21st, 2019 by Lori Dunn in Texarkana News

Tornado sirens are activated in Texarkana when there is an imminent threat to the city, officials said Monday.

Tornado watches and warnings are issued by the county. However, sometimes a tornado warning is for the very northern edge of Bowie County and is no threat to Texarkana.

"When a warning is issued, we look at what has been created by that warning and see if it is a threat to the city," said Texarkana, Texas, Fire Chief Eric Schlotter.

"We look at what path it is on and if it is bearing on the city," he said. "If they go off, it means something bad is close to the city. We take that very, very seriously. We don't take the responsibility of setting them off lightly."

Tornado sirens were activated Saturday because a storm spotter reported to dispatch that he had seen a funnel cloud in the area of I-30 and Jarvis Parkway.

"He reported what he thought to be a funnel cloud. We tried to confirm it, but since it was so close, we went ahead and set off the sirens. We were on the phone with the National Weather Service when we learned it was not a funnel cloud," Schlotter said.

There are 13 sirens in Texarkana, Texas, and 14 in Texarkana, Ark. All are tested on Wednesdays except when the weather is bad. All of the sirens are in working order and do require routine maintenance.

Texarkana, Ark., Fire Department Battalion Chief William Smith said emergency officials in Arkansas stay in contact with Texas-side officials along with Bowie County and the NWS when storms are approaching.

Most storms move into the area from the west and reach Bowie County first.

Emergency officials still want people to use other weather notifications and not rely on sirens.

Storm sirens are not designed to be heard by people indoors. They are designed to be heard by those who are outdoors so that they can seek shelter.

The only thing sirens are meant to do is let people know they need to take shelter and get more information.

The safest approach is to be proactive and use all available warnings to protect yourself and your family from threatening weather. Nothing can replace common sense, NOAA Weather Radio, local media, or weather alert apps, fire officials said.

"We try to tell anybody to get a weather radio. You can get them pretty cheap and set them for your county. CodeRed is also far superior at giving detailed information," Schlotter said.

CodeRed is an emergency notification system shared by Texarkana, Texas, Texarkana, Ark., and Bowie and Miller counties that alerts residents by telephone and/or email. The system is set up to notify residents of critical community alerts, such as weather emergencies, evacuation notices, bioterrorism alerts, boil-water notices and reports of missing children.

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