Why too many sirens sounded in Greene County during tornado warning

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A software glitch is being blamed for everyone in Greene County hearing storm sirens, instead of just people under a tornado warning.

Current technology allows warnings and sirens to be issued for specific polygon-shaped areas in the path of a storm. As a result, people living outside the affected areas are not alerted. The goal is to reduce unnecessary warnings, which could cause people to become desensitized to hearing too many warnings that don’t concern them.

During Monday evening’s storms, a tornado warning was issued by the National Weather Service for the northern part of Greene County. But the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management, which controls the sirens, says a computer in the alert system failed to fine-tune the correct alert zone.

Darren White, deputy director of the Springfield-Greene County OEM, said the digital flow between the weather service and the siren manufacturer, Federal Signal, was inconsistent. This in turn led to a chain of events that resulted in the activation of sirens for the entire county and city of Springfield, as opposed to the specific polygon area defined by the tornado warning.

White said: “The complexity of this issue revolves around concerns about potential desensitization to warning sirens. Although we prefer to err on the side of caution, software complication is an issue we treat with the utmost seriousness. We worked with engineers not only from the software manufacturer, but also from the vendor, both of whom acknowledged and confirmed that the problem lay in their systems. Understanding the intricacies involved and given the ongoing storm season, we have highlighted the urgency of addressing this issue.

White told FOX 49-KOLR10 the manufacturer and NWS worked Tuesday to resolve the issue, then performed 120 tests to confirm the system was repaired. There were no outages during the testing phase. However, as a safety precaution, the OEM will perform manual activations of the sirens while monitoring software performance, should tornado warnings be issued Wednesday for Greene County. As a result, some areas outside the alerted polygon could once again hear sirens ringing in neighborhoods.

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