Old Sirens: Cold War-era Air Raid Sirens
In Salina, like many towns in Kansas, the warning sirens date back to the civil defense days, and were installed originally to be air raid sirens. To my knowledge the sirens in Kansas have never been put to use for their designed purpose. Instead, city and county governments took to setting them off to provide warning of tornadoes. That’s why, to this day, more of us call them “tornado” sirens than anything else.
I recently talked with Saline County Emergency Manager Hannah Stambaugh about the sirens, which are more accurately called “Outdoor Warning Sirens.” The City of Salina, with the help of some grant funding, is upgrading their system.
Here are some of the advantages of the new sirens:
- Individually addressable — if only the area around the airport is threatened, they only need sound one or two sirens
- Battery backup — one of the lessons of Joplin was “when the power goes out, so do the sirens.” The new sirens have individual battery backup and solar charging.
- Flashing indicators at the base of the siren to help alert hearing-impaired people who may be in the vicinity when the sirens sound.
The most important takeaway…sirens are for OUTDOOR warning only
That is why you see them near schools, parks, and ball fields. Even a couple of blocks away from the siren, its sound will no longer penetrate the walls of even a poorly-built home. They are meant for just one thing: getting people who are outdoors, indoors when they are threatened by a tornado.
The video runs just over 6 minutes. I’d love to hear your feedback.