Tornado sirens pass test

Posted by Christi Reynard - email

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) - Kentuckiana was not expecting severe weather, but tornado sirens sounded for a statewide tornado warning test at 10:07 a.m. Tuesday. Weather alert radios also activated, and TV and radio stations broadcast an alert at the same time.

According to Metrosafe, the test went well - with the exception of one siren needing a battery.

March is Severe Weather Awareness Month in Kentucky, so the Commonwealth's Division of Emergency Management encouraged people and businesses to practice their safety drill at the same time as the siren test.

The test took center stage in Jefferson County, where technology and human error led to the sirens not sounding Monday, February 28, when three tornadoes hit Kentuckiana.

On Friday the Director of Metrosafe, Doug Hamilton, presented a report to Metro Mayor Greg Fischer about what went wrong.

That Monday the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning around 4:31 a.m., while tracking an EF 1 twister moving from Clark County, IN to Jefferson County, KY.  The siren remained silent, and Hamilton says Metrosafe's encoders did not pick up the warning, and places part of the blame on two supervisors who did not manually sound the sirens.

Metrosafe is taking several actions to make sure the same mistake doesn't happen again, including re-installing and testing two emergency alert system encoders and replacing the roof antennas for those encoders.

Every supervisor has now uploaded an emergency email notification system on their phones and computers, and dispatchers are getting retrained.

The two supervisors blamed for not manually sounding the sirens during last week's storms could be disciplined.

Tuesday's test wasn't just for the sirens, but for schools as well.  Many schools within JCPS receive an alert when the sirens are sounded.

Students and staff at Norton Elementary were put to the test, to see just how well they could respond had this been a real emergency.

It took just 3 minutes to get all the schools roughly 800 students and staff in place, and 1 more minute to make sure everyone was accounted for.

"It went well.  I had actually asked four classes before this drill to change locations  to better position themselves and they did to kind of speed things up and of course they went to the correct spot," said Norton Elementary Principal Ken Stites.

Just like in the classroom, there's always learning to be done.

"I had a teacher make a suggestion today that they felt would make the flow down the stairs slightly improved," Stites said.

The school has about a dozen different emergency drills during the school year, for things like tornadoes and fires.

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