Severe Weather Alerts and Tornado Sirens


May 8, 2017

By Herb Brady

As is typical for Colorado, we transitioned seemingly overnight from winter to spring and summer weather conditions, including the hazardous weather that comes with it: flash floods, hail, high wind and red flag warnings, lightening and tornados. It is important to be aware and prepared for all of these hazards in Colorado.

Each year as the awareness of tornados reemerges and siren tests are conducted in areas that have sirens, we are often asked why sirens are not located in all communities. In our District, Severance has two sirens that residents may hear in some, but not all parts of that growing community.  Most tornado sirens are left over Cold War era air raid sirens from the 1950s.  Around 1970, these sirens were first used to warn of approaching tornados. Now that the Cold War is over, these sirens are used almost exclusively for that purpose.  Many communities with these sirens have elected to take them out as better, more reliable, and less expensive solutions become widely available.

The use of large outdoor sirens as tornado sirens has several limitations starting with reliability. They are prone to failure from the mechanics to power supply and even the telephone or radio systems used to activate the sirens are often affected by the very storm the system is designed to warn against. Additionally, cost of the system is very expensive. To cover and maintain adequate systems, communities the size of Windsor and Severance would likely run $500,000 plus ongoing maintenance.  For a system like this, with questionable reliability, and limited in scope, there are much better choices.

The technology to give information and warnings today for all types of perils has never been better. Systems for cell phones can be set up for low to no cost and configured from a litany of warnings from all-weather types, crime, hazardous materials, amber alerts and road closures.  As a backup, National Weather Service weather radios, that have battery backup and alert when there is a serious weather issue in your area, can be purchased for around $40.

The most important activity for every family is to not wait for the emergency. Have a plan and be prepared. We encourage everyone within WSFR’s district in Weld and Larimer Counties to sign up with the Everbridge Notification System through LETA.  WSFR’s district is the only non-Larimer County area additionally covered by this robust 911 Notification System.  Furthermore, residents within our District and in Weld County can also sign up for the Code Red Emergency Notification system.  Yes, you can have both.  Also, with these systems you can add other locations such as your children’s school, your business, or family members, and can choose which types of alerts you would like.  Additionally, there are apps from the National Weather Service and local TV stations that offer very useful information even when you are traveling.  Personally, I have several free subscriptions that come in handy especially when traveling.

Back to weather in general, while we do get tornados and they are highly publicized events, other weather perils lead the way in loss of life and property in Colorado. Colorado, in fact, year over year is among the top 3 states for lightening fatalities.  Flash floods are also very fast to develop and very deadly in our state including right here in our local communities.  Do not ignore the warnings, get off the ball field, pool, or golf course when lightening is in the area, do not tempt driving through flooded streets, and stay prepared.


Helpful Links:

Code Red for Residents of Weld County:

LETA’s Everbridge for Residents of Larimer County AND WSFR’s entire Fire District including Severance and Windsor

FEMA’s Plan-Prepare website

FEMA’s site for helpful information