The Ottumwa Courier

March 26, 2013

Ottumwa helps make Iowa safer — and louder

MARK NEWMAN
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Ottumwa already tests its outdoor warning system on a monthly basis. But an extra check of the sirens couldn’t hurt.

That’s one of the reasons Ottumwa Fire Department Chief Tony Miller has agreed to follow the state’s lead and conduct a drill along with other cities around Iowa.

The test will be 10 a.m. Wednesday.

State officials have requested that every community with an outdoor warning system turn the sirens on at the same time.

This will be Ottumwa’s first time participating in the statewide simultaneous test, Miller said.

Many people, the fire chief believes, are unaware that the “tornado sirens” are actually called the outdoor warning system. So every month, the OFD gets calls from residents complaining that they were home watching television and couldn’t quite hear the sirens. That’s OK, firefighters tell concerned residents. They’re only meant to alert people who are outside, away from broadcast media that people indoors have access to.

“If you’re inside,” said Miller, “get on a weather channel on the TV or the radio. The best thing to have is a weather radio.”

The weather radios, which cost about $30 at retailers, can be set to only activate if there’s a tornado or other emergency in the owner’s local area. When it activates in those cases, there’s trouble.

Which leads to the one other piece of advice from the lifelong emergency responder: If you do find out there’s a warning, do not delay. Seek shelter immediately. A warning for your area, he said, means the emergency is there right now. And as fast as things like tornadoes move, he said, residents have to be quick. A tornado might miss a resident’s home or be there in less than a minute.

“The statewide test, it’s one of those deals that it comes when severe weather isn’t that far [in the future],” Miller said.