Thursday, August 5, 2010

San Francisco's "Tornado Sirens"

Photos courtesy:

Those of us that live in the Midwest are familiar with the use of outdoor warning sirens for use in tornado warnings. Thanks to an article in The Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required) I have learned that San Francisco just spent $500,000 to upgrade their system over the last two years, system that has never been sounded except in periodic "test" mode. I was surprised they invested in new sirens given that aren't used. So, apparently, are many residents of the City By The Bay. The tests are annoying to some and they aren't sure for what hazard they would be sounded.
San Francisco resident unhappy with siren test.

The WSJ article implies the sirens are a solution in search of an emergency. Let me make some suggestions:
  • Make the sirens individually "soundable." So, if there is a tsunami warning, the sirens only near the water can be sounded. 
  • Tie the sirens to California's earthquake detection and warning system. While the amount of warning would be only ten to twenty seconds, it would allow residents to get under tables, etc., to lessen their chance of being injured.
  • When there is a wildfire threat (certainly important to San Francisco, given its history), sound the sirens in the threatened area, especially if it is during the night.
WeatherData's SelectWarn® system will handle all of that for them.

You're welcome, San Franciscans.  No need to thank me. Just send a couple of loaves of sourdough bread!

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