The city of Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety unanimously approved changes recommended by city and county officials on when tornado warning sirens would be activated, and for what reasons. Under the new policy, effective immediately, tornado warning sirens will be activated for the following conditions only:
1. When a Tornado Warning has been issued for Bartholomew County by the National Weather Service.
2. When a Public Safety Officer (Police, Fire, EMS) reports the sighting of a funnel cloud or tornado.
3. When directed to active the sirens by the Director of the Emergency Operations 911 Center or Director of the Emergency Management Office.
Columbus Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management Joel Thacker presented the proposed changes to the Board of Public Works and Safety, based on research from his office and discussions with the National Weather Service, Indiana Homeland Security, the Bartholomew County Emergency Management and 911 Operations Center. Members of the Board of Public Works and Safety are Mayor Kristen Brown, Jayne Farber and Susan Fye.
According to Thacker, the city’s goal with this policy change is to give clear directions to residents in the event of a tornado. “The change should eliminate confusion by residents. Now, when people hear the warning siren, we want them to know they should take action immediately. They should not ignore the siren because if it goes off, it means there is a serious threat and that a tornado has either been sighted or the National Weather Service has issued a warning in Bartholomew County. Residents should take cover immediately and tune to local cable TV or radio stations for further instructions.”
Indiana Homeland Security Department has issued guidelines for people on what to do during a tornado, which include the following:
- Go to the lowest area possible. Basements, inner rooms of a house, and storm cellars provide the best protection.
- Stay away from exterior walls, windows, and doors. Stay in the center of the room.
- If you are in your car do NOT try and outrun the tornado because it can switch direction and can cover lots of ground quickly.
- Get out of vehicle and go into a strong building if possible. If not, lie flat in a ditch or low area and cover your head.
- Do NOT go under overpasses, wind speeds actually increase under them and can suck you out!
- If you live in a mobile home, get out IMMEDIATELY. Take shelter in a building with a strong foundation.
- Listen to radio or watch TV so you can be alerted about your current situation.
Thacker also stressed the importance of residents being prepared for any emergency. “We want people to be proactive and do emergency planning prior to any disaster event. Have a plan as to where you will go during an emergency and make sure relatives and friends know where you will be. Try to have emergency supplies, including batteries, blankets and three days’ worth of food and water stored if possible.”
For more comprehensive instructions on how to plan for and respond to a tornado, please go to http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/?n=safety-severe-safetyplan.
The Severe Weather Sirens will continue to be tested the first Friday of each month at 12 noon, unless otherwise advised by Director Ed Reuter, Deputy Director Julie Pierce, EMA Director Dennis Moats or Deputy Director Reigna Zeigler.
Columbus has 14 sirens within city limits and one warning siren is located in Hope. As new sirens come online within the city, they will follow the new protocol.