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How Reliable Are Our Tornado Sirens?

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TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma -

There are 98 tornado sirens in Tulsa County.  During a silent test on Tuesday, 11 sirens showed “no response.”

That error message can be due to a low battery, a mechanical problem, or a radio frequency issue.  It also doesn’t necessarily mean the siren didn’t blare.

The sound of a tornado siren is something we’re all familiar with in Oklahoma, warning you that you need to seek shelter.

But how reliable are the sirens?

“Every siren test, we will get one or two that we have an issue with,” said Joseph Kralicek, Director of Tulsa Emergency Management.

Kralicek says that “accidents happen and mishaps happen.  Any time you want to rely on anything mechanical, chances are it breaks and, when you have nearly 100 of them, even a 1 percent chance of a malfunction means any time you sound it, you’re going to have one of the sirens malfunction.”

The sirens are tested every Wednesday year-round.

Sometimes you won’t hear them.  They do silent tests on days when it’s cloudy or there’s a storm threat.

Kralicek admitted they don’t monitor the sirens as closely as they used to after losing their Communication Coordinator to budget cuts over three years ago.

“Our system is not totally fool proof on reporting in.  We’ve have incidents in the past where the siren reports a normal, but there might be an issue with the components that it doesn’t pick up,” stated Kralicek.

In that case, Kralicek says to call 3-1-1, so they can send a tech out to your neighborhood to figure out why the siren isn’t working.

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