In observance of Severe Weather Awareness Week, The City of Albertville would like to encourage our residents to be proactive in becoming as alert and prepared for severe weather season as possible. We are aware that we have sirens in our community that are not working properly. Some are not working at all. We understand that this can be of great concern for some citizens.
“We tell people, ‘Don’t even think about relying on a siren.’ It is World War II technology and unfortunately, to this day that is how a lot of Alabamians think they will be notified about a tornado," ABC 33/40 Chief Meteorologist, James Spann said in a 2019 AL .com story entitled "Alabama Weather Experts Warn of Dangers of Relying on Tornado Sirens."
"It’s a last resort. And they serve a purpose, but they reach only a limited number of people outdoors," he added. "I think it has killed hundreds over the last 50 years where people think they’re going to hear a siren and it’s going to wake them up. We’ve got to fight that battle.”
Sirens are outdoor emergency notification systems. They were never meant to warn us indoors. In continuing to maintain them, we’re essentially fighting an uphill battle to keep technology in place that isn’t serving the city in a manner that should be considered acceptable. Nearly all of our 14 sirens are antiquated, containing parts that are no longer made, and requiring continuous, extensive upgrades to equipment that repeatedly fails with the next lightning strike. With this in mind, all weather sirens throughout the city will soon be extracted, and they should not be relied on this weather season.
The Marshall County Emergency Management Agency has implemented an innovative emergency notification system, Alert Marshall County, that is now available to all county residents, free of charge. Powered by Everbridge, the worldwide leader in unified critical communications, Alert Marshall County has the ability to warn citizens via landlines and home phones, text, and by email when severe weather approaches our area. You can register to receive notifications by visiting www.marshallcoema.com, and clicking on “Alert Marshall County Sign Up for Notifications.” There are detailed and helpful instructions on the homepage of the EMA’s website that will assist in getting residents acquainted with the program prior to signing up. Should further assistance be required, feel free to contact their office at 256-571-7329.
The city currently has a limited supply of NOAA Weather Radios in our possession to be distributed to those in need in our community, with priority going to the elderly, homebound, or the vulnerable/indigent who are in imminent need. Radios can be picked up in person at Albertville Police or Fire Department, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., while supplies last. Radios will come programmed and with batteries.
In addition to the groups mentioned above, every home in Albertville and Marshall County, alike, should invest in a NOAA Weather Radio. They range from $35 to $40 in cost, and more times than not, will alert you before tornado sirens can as they are powered directly from the National Weather Service, and not by man as local sirens are. This weekend, Feb. 26-28, weather radios and other weather safety items under $60 will be eligible for tax-exemption during Alabama's eighth annual Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, so take advantage of this savings opportunity and invest in the safety of yourself and your family!
If you live in Albertville and have recently installed a storm shelter, please register your shelter immediately with the Albertville Fire Department. If you have already registered your shelter, please be sure to update your phone numbers if they have changed. You can take care of both, virtually, by visiting http://cityofalbertville.com/FormCenter/Fire-Dept-9/Storm-Shelter-Registration-58, or by contacting AFD at 256-891-8230.
Always remember to keep on your Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEAs, on your cell phone. Every mobile phone sold in the U.S. has WEAs. These are built in and do not have to be downloaded. In our area, WEAs include tornado warnings, flash flood alerts, and Amber alerts. Free smartphone applications provided by local weather teams that you can download are as follows: Alabama SAF-T-NET (Baron’s), WHNT Live Alert 19, WAFF FIRST ALERT Storm Team Weather, ABC 33/40 Weather App. As James Spann says, “prepare yourself to be warned,” and know and prepare your safe space ahead of time.
For a current list of all public shelters in Albertville and Marshall County, visit marshallcoema.org and click on “Shelters and Places of Refuge” directly on the homepage.